Multiple posts on social media state that eSwatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy, passed a law allowing King Mswati III to marry 14-year-old virgins. There is no evidence that such a law exists and a spokesman for the government denied the claim, adding that it was “lunacy”. The Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Act was passed into law in July 2018, providing minors legal protection against harm from sexual acts and acts of domestic violence. However, the king has complete control over parliament and government as well as the judiciary, civil service and security forces.
A tweet from December 9, 2018 said that the parliament had passed a law allowing the king to marry 14-year-old virgins. Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director of Human Rights Watch, re-tweeted a screenshot of the claim saying, “If true this is tragic. Will investigate further”.
A similar version of the narrative reads, “Rape legalized for King Mswati” and was shared 1,587 times as of publication. It can also be seen in a tweet shared more than 600 times and under a Facebook search with a growing number of posts.
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