29 March 2012

Botswana: State of Emergency Call to End Violence Against Women

Photo: Kate Holt/Irin
Gender violence is seen as a widespread social problem.

Botswana's Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Honourable Minister Edwin Jenamiso Batshu will today launch The Gender Based Violence (GBV) Indicators Study Botswana (2012) report which reveals the high prevalence of GBV in the country. The research is a product of the partnership between Gender Links (GL) and the Women's Affairs Department (WAD) in the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs in Botswana.

The study, carried out between 2010 and 2011, shows that over two thirds of women in Botswana (67%) have experienced violence in their lifetime including partner and non-partner violence. A smaller, but still high, proportion of men (44%) admit to perpetrating violence against women. In 2011 alone, 29% of women experienced violence perpetrated by men and 22% of men admitted to perpetrating GBV.

Nearly one third of women (29%) experienced Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the 12 months to the prevalence survey that formed the flagship research tool in this study. In contrast, only 1.2% of Batswana women reported cases of GBV to the police in the same period. Thus the prevalence of GBV reported in the survey is 24 times higher than that reported to the police. This suggests that levels of GBV are far higher than those recorded in official statistics and that women have lost faith in the very systems that should protect them as well as offer redress.

Other glaring findings of the research include that:

• The most common form of IPV is emotional violence.

• Eleven percent of women experienced and 10.7% men perpetrated non-partner rape in their lifetime.

• Only 15% of the 188 analysed political speeches referred to GBV. Of these only 6% had GBV as the main topic.

• Of those interviewed, 46.2% of women and 42.5% of men said they had heard about the Domestic Violence Act.

• The most commonly reported form of GBV to police is physical followed by verbal, sexual, emotional and lastly economic.

• Only 36% of GBV cases before courts in 2011 resulted in prosecution. Thirty one percent of the cases before courts resulted in convictions. Six percent of GBV cases before courts resulted in acquittals.

• Less than half of the sample, 47.9% of women and 48.6% of men, heard of events or prevention campaigns to end GBV. Women (62.8%) and men (51.3%) who heard of GBV campaigns found them empowering.

• Government has not formally adopted the draft "365 Day National Action Plan to End Gender Violence" developed in 2007 or made any budgetary allocations for its implementation.

Some of the recommendations ensuing from the research include that:

• The president, cabinet and all political leaders need to declare a national emergency on GBV based on this study's findings.

• Government needs to allocate more financial resources for GBV focal points in police stations; provide facilities of protection as specified in the Domestic Violence Act; and conduct follow up and periodic GBV surveys using the same methods.

• WAD needs to ddevelop and institutionalise an effective referral system for GBV survivors.

• Botswana Police Services need to publicise the annual GBV statistics widely for the purposes of informing the public and decision makers on extent of violence reported.

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