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August 30, 2005

The Flip Side Of Abstinence: 50,000 virgins audition to join a king's harem

Topics: Health Issues

In a country where polygamy, teenage sex, and abject poverty is rampant, and where 40 percent of adults live with the HIV virus, the king of bad examples holds a dance for 50,000 bare breasted virgins in order to choose his 13th wife.

LUDZIDZINI ROYAL VILLAGE, Swaziland -- Fifty thousand bare-breasted virgins danced for the king of Swaziland yesterday, vying to become his 13th wife.

King Mswati III, the last absolute monarch in sub-Saharan Africa, arrived dressed in a leopard-skin loincloth to watch the ceremony called the Reed Dance, which he has used since 1999 to pluck brides from the ranks of girls dressed in little more than beaded miniskirts.

Wielding machetes and singing tributes to the king and queen mother, called "the Great She-Elephant," the girls danced around the royal stadium in the hope of catching the eye of the 37-year-old monarch. "I want to live a nice life, have money, be rich, have a BMW and cell phone," said one of them, 16-year-old Zodwa Mamba, who wore a traditional brightly colored tasseled scarf and not a lot else.

Thought you'd heard it all? The ceremony yesterday was the culmination of a week of preparations, which included the lifting of a royal ban on sexual relations with virgins, decreed in 2001 to rein in the spread of the HIV virus. Days after reviving the ancient ban, King Mswati in 2001 married a virgin and fined himself one cow. This is only a week after the king lifted a five-year ban a year early, by ordering thousands of maidens to throw off chastity scarves worn to discourage the attention of scamps and libertines.

It is indeed good to be king, or is it! How would you like to have to put up with 13 spouses, mostly teenagers?

Posted by Richard at August 30, 2005 7:14 AM

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