17 January 2019

Botswana: Up in Arms Against Rape Culture

The nation is up in ups over the worsening rape culture that has left most women living in constant fear and victims nursing endless trauma.

Botswana Police's preliminary statistics indicate that 109 rape cases were recorded from the 21st December 2018 to the 3rd January 2019.

"This is a worrisome factor as rape is one of the violent and intrusive crimes," the media release states.

According to investigations most rape cases happened at different places where festivities were held.

While the nation was left in shock by this statistics, there is a possibility that the 109 recorded cases maybe but a tip of the iceberg, especially because that research indicates that only one out of nine women report gender based violence including rape. The research shows that 40 women are raped per week in Botswana and that on average five women are raped every day.

The above revelations were brought to life this past week when, Zinedine Gioia; a local model and socialite went public about an alleged date rape that took place last year on her 21st birthday. The perpetrator according to Gioia is currently free and authorities seem to have abandoned the case.

After an online petition to help Gioia get justice gained traction, it has since been revealed that several other girls who have suffered the same fate as they have now decided to tell their stories and are seeking justice.

Many other women who also report that they have suffered similar abuse (rape and other forms of GBV) are also coming out and are telling their stories. One distinctive fact however is that a sizeable number of survivors, who are speaking out, have not reported their ordeals before and has no intention of doing so.

This abrupt 'movement' sparked by Gioia's petition has since seen political leadership, civil organisations and the nation at large also speaking out against rape and other forms of GBV and in some cases going an extra mile and offering to assist survivors.

The youthful Specially Elected Member of Parliament Bogolo Kenewendo, for example called out to Gioia, and offered to liaise with relevant authorities on her behalf to check the status of her case. She added that she hopes; "this will get you closer to some sort of peace and justice' she wrote on tweeter, responding to the latter's call for assistance to get justice.

The former Minister of Gender Affairs, Dorcas Makgato, who had during her short stint in the ministry actively spoken against GBV and pledged support to employ measures to curb it, also released a statement lamenting this sad state of affairs.

"As a mother and a leader, I cannot bear the thought of a girl child or any woman suffering sexual assault at the hands of any man. I am especially pained by the fact that many women and girls suffer in SILENCE. Investigations must always be thorough and justice should always be delivered... ... .It is very plausible that Batswana are speaking in one voice - the need for a sexual offenders registry is becoming more and more apparent with each passing day. To the men and boys, learn to exercise self-control. Let's stay united and end sexual violence," she wrote

Makgato also offered 'personal assistance to ensuring that the current reports are thoroughly investigated'.

Various political movements also seized the opportunity to speak out against GBV and even went an extra mile to point out that the government of the day was not doing enough to address the situation.

"It is disheartening to read about the painful ordeals of women who have been sexually violated mostly by men. The lax attitude of government throughout the years, and even appointment of individuals with known histories of women abuse to a high position, even ministers that are supposed to champion for their rights spits right on the faces of victims. We have observed a prevalent culture of entitlement among unruly individuals who disregard consent to appease their selfish desires, destroying innocent lives in the process. This is wrong. It is despicable and must be condemned in the strictest sense. Women must be protected. A strong message needs to be made that any and all possible interventions will be made to protect our women; be it sensitizing, deterring or correcting behavior," said the Young Progressives (Alliance for Progressives Youth league) in a statement.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi has promised that his Government will act to stop this rot.

"I would like to emphasise the fact that ending gender based violence against women and children should be seen as a collective responsibility by all and sundry. Our voices should echo in unison, a message that gender based violence against women and children is wrong and that perpetrators should be brought to book.

"I wish to also affirm my Government's commitment to fulfil its part as far as legislation is concerned and that law enforcers will continue to do their jobs without fear or favour. I therefore encourage the victims of gender based violence to desist from withdrawing criminal charges against their perpetrators, because doing so is fighting a losing battle against gender based violence by all concerned including the Government.

"The time is now for us to break the silence and end gender based violence. I therefore call on all men and boys as well as women and girls to make a personal commitment to end gender based violence."

"I too pledge as a husband to a wife, a father to daughter ele Atsile; A son to a mother; A brother to a sister; A nephew to an aunt; an uncle to a niece and a male President to women, girls, man & boys that I, Mokgweetsi Eric Keabetswe Masisi will step up my commitment and actions on working hard and smart to end gender based violence!"

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