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Cultural norms incite sexual abuse of women

NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE

Cultural norms such as male honour, masculinity, and men’s sexual entitlement foster societal acceptance of sexual assault against women in many ways.

Speaking during Botswana Family Welfare Association (BOFWA) Sensitisation of The Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) project in Gaborone yesterday, BOFWA programs manager Senzeni Makhwaje said even though the topic is barely talked about in Botswana, cultural norms play a major role in sexual assaults against women.

“Culturally, women are expected to be submissive to their husbands. Because men pay a bride prize (magadi/lobola) for their wives, it is believed that it is the duty of the wife to sexually satisfy her husband. Therefore not giving women a saying in this issue,” she said. She added that it is culturally believed that women are shadows of their men.

She said that the Setswana culture expects women to wear and behave in a certain way. Makhwaje said culturally, it is believed that women expose themselves to be raped through the kind of clothes they wear (short skirts, dresses or tight clothes).

Furthermore, she said it is also believed that women pre-dispose themselves to violence by going to certain places such as bars and nightclubs compared to their male counterparts who are allowed to wear anything they want and go wherever their legs can take them to.

She stated that since in most families men are sole breadwinners, women tend to be sexually assaulted because they depend on their men to put food on their table.

She said when SGBV takes place in homes, cases are either not reported or withdrawn because families are afraid of losing breadwinners. “According to Kagisano Society Women’s Shelter (KSWS) Gender Based Violence Study of 2015, 46% women were aware of the support they can get when exposed to SGBV. The study also shows that due to these cultural norms, a number of women more especially in rural areas are not aware that they are

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sexually abused,” she said.

One of the factors that attributes to SGBV is sexual relationships where partners more especially men feel they are entitled to have sexual intercourse with their partners even when their partners do not want to be intimate. Makhwaje explained that other factors leading to SGBV includes political environment saying study shows that only six percent of political leaders refer to GBV in public.

According to the study on GBV prevalence, about 67% women admitted to have been abused, about 45% men agreed to be perpetrators while emotional intimate partner violence (IPV) was at 45%, sexual IPV was at 15%, Economic IPV at 29% and non IPV rape at 11%. The study also shows that sexual harassment was at 23%, sexual harassment in school nine percent and sexual harassment at work 18%.

For his part, BOFWA SGBV manager Dr John Tlhakanelo said they would be carrying out a study on SGBV this year that is expected to be complete on November this year.

He said the study would be looking at referral systems indicating how the communities view and where they seek helps. The study will also identify the gaps on SGBV and how they could be addressed.

“This study will be looking at SGBV in both the rural and urban settings. We want to establish if people residing in those places together with the officers giving them assistance are equipped with knowledge on how to handle SGBV. It will also look at policies related to this matter and see how we can improve them,” he said.

However, Tlhakanelo pointed out that the study wont be covering the whole country due to financial constraints. He said they would select areas where the study would be done and infer their finding with close by areas.



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