28 September 2018

Botswana: Murder, Rape On the Increase

As the nation is reeling with shock following the recent brutal killings of women in Botswana, information from the Botswana Police Service (BPS) is that close to 100 have been killed by their lovers in Botswana since the beginning of this year.

According to statistics released early this month from the BPS, a total of 194 murder cases have been reported to the Botswana Police from January to mid-September (as at 11/09/2018) and out of the number 87 were of female victims killed by their lovers, on the contrary however only one male victim was killed by his lover (female).

The root cause

Gender based violence is one of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world. It knows no social, economic or national boundaries. Worldwide, an estimated one in three women will experience physical or sexual abuse in her lifetime. In Botswana, over 67% of women have experienced abuse, which is over double the global average.

"The manner in which some of the murder incidents take place is a sign of a deep-rooted societal problem which demands a concerted effort from all stakeholders. Recently, we have seen wanton killings of women by their partners, who naturally are supposed to be their protectors. A deliberate action should be taken to address incidents of Gender Based Violence (GBV) which has a direct correlation with murder cases. There seem to be lack of appropriate conflict resolution skills in intimate relationships." Said Botswana Police Service spokesperson Near Bagali.

Rape cases just like murder cases are on the rise too. International studies indicate that a woman is raped every 8 minutes around the world and only 1 in 9 rape cases get reported. Gender-based violence undermines the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims, yet it remains shrouded in a culture of silence and normalization. Victims of violence, the majority of which are women and girls, can suffer sexual and reproductive health consequences, including forced and unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, and even death.

When addressing members of the media recently the Minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Dorcas Makgato said the government of Botswana recognises the negative effect of Gender Base Violence (GBV) in socio-economic development and to effectively address it, her ministry has been piloting the Gender Based Violence Referral System in Maun/Shorobe and Mochudi/Artesia since 2013 in collaboration with USAID.

"The pilot was completed in July 2017. To date, referrals are made on-line in the pilot sites, relieving victims the ordeal of having to repeat their story to each service provider. Next step will include developing the roll-out plan and mobilising resources for implementation," said Makgato.

Engaging Men and Boys

According to Makgato following the 2012 Gender Based Violence (GBV) indicator study, her ministry is currently undertaking a much broader one which includes GBV amongst men and boys. Data collection she says was completed in 2017 and the ministry I currently validating the report in preparation for publication.

"The study will inform targeted programming for addressing GBV by locality," she said.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls cannot be achieved without the involvement of men and boys. Negative attitudes that promote gender inequality can be unlearned thereby contributing to healthier relationships. It is such undeniable that effective responses to gender inequality and GBV require joint effort by women and men and it is a fact that initiatives that do not involve males in addressing GBV, particularly violence against women; usually have minimal impact.

Women against Rape Director, Peggie Ramaphane fully agrees to this. She observed that with the sharp increase in GBV cases especially murder cases which were reported recently, it is now critical that men and boys be roped in in the campaign against GBV.

"I am at loss for words, with regard to the recent killings," Ramaphane said.

According to Ramaphane it is quite clear that stakeholders have to investigate and evaluate the root cause of the persisting GBV cases especially perpetrated by men because clearly the message isn't reaching home.

"I think we should interrogate this narrative held by men, that; women fleece them of their money and dump them (Basadi ba a ba JA) hence the killings when the relationship reach its end. We need to engage men more to understand the real reasons behind this senseless killing," she said. "Personally I think we need to go back to the drawing board," she added.

With regard to the passion killings Ramaphane acknowledged the fact that the civic society was at it's lowest currently in terms of visibility because of lack of funds. Research on gender issues (GBV) she pointed out was barely up to date.

"Government and other stakeholders really need to dedicate more funds towards addressing GBV," said Ramaphane.

Police Intervention

According to the police spokesperson, they have for one taken a deliberate decision that whoever threatens to kill someone (Threats to kill), he/she will be arrested and will not be released until appearing before the courts of law who will determine the next step of action.

"This is obviously a disturbing trend requiring a multi-faceted approach and interventions in addition to law enforcement and public education carried out by the Botswana Police Service," he said.

Adding that they continues to engage the community in various forums such as Kgotla meetings, crime prevention seminars, workshops to mention but a few, with a view to addressing these violent behaviors resulting in ruthless killings.

"Rather than resorting to violence, those involved in intimate relationships should promote dialogue to amicably resolve their differences," he said.

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