The conversations on Gender -Based Violence (GBV) have started in our sleepy nation. Men and women are speaking out. Boys and girls are coming out.
There is traffic. The hash tag “I wear What I Want” has gained enormous momentum. Religious pundits and morality high priests are gasping for air. Liberals sneer at the pretensions of conservatives. Conservatives are grappling for survival. The culture card is treading on thin ice and the jury is still out. The playground is muddied, but bottom line is the demonstrators have achieved a milestone; they wanted to spark the conversations around GBV, in particular against women by men. The idea was to push, nag, stir the elephant in the room, it is undeniable the elephant is moving, slowly yet surely.
All hell broke loose after a video appeared on Facebook. The video was so ugly and nauseating; with demeaning and derogatory scenes. It was a mixed mob viciously charging at a helpless girl who is barely in her early 20s or even younger. Disdainful nomenclatures were hurled at the poor girl. Cheers of women could be heard from the side-lines, fuelling the vigour of the so-called men who were shamelessly strong-minded to undress a child young enough to be their daughter or young sister. No one was seen to be assisting the poor thing until she grabbed a plastic stool to shove them off. The damage was already done; they had managed to expose her uttermost vital parts. They succeeded in undressing her. I could feel her disgust, disgust beyond description. I could tell shame covered her from head to toe. Hours after the sickening video took rounds on social media, sporadic voices were heard from isolated places. Eventually they came together to sing a song of harmony, a song that says, let the women be allowed to say, “I wear what I want”. That was the hash tag.
Within a blink, a case was opened at Borakanelo Police Station and apparently some suspects were called forth to answer. It did not end there; a Facebook page was created (it had over 17,000 members when this article was written). Logistics of combating this anomaly were sought through the same; all those who were harbouring abuse of the past were able to come out. Protest marches were organised and volunteers put their heads on the block to be counted among history makers against women folk abuse. The first march was in Maun, then Gaborone. Protesters went hard to make their point. The attire was what the doctor ordered to drive the message home. You see in protests like in love and war, all is fair. Conservatives were provoked by the protest attire and termed it uncultured while the liberals had the last laugh. Throngs of men and women filled the streets to relay their message of “I wear what I want”. Oh yes, they had their bum shorts, mini-skirts, hot pants, crop tops on. Social media was abuzz with mixed emotions of approval and disgust; two extremes diametrically opposed to each other. First it was the culture custodians; the protesters shred this lot to pieces, accusing them of choosing archaic and oppressive parts of culture. It was argued that long back, Batswana were skimpily clad and harassment was not rife as it is today. Followed the moral group, they were put in the same shredding machine; indicted for not obeying our values and morals to the dot. Issues of cohabitation, adultery, irresponsible drinking were cited among others rendering their argument void and powerless. Then religious commentators, several
At first I thought I would just let this conversation slide, but a piercing quote from Martin Luther Jr. cut through my heart;
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
These words would not allow me to sit on the fence to watch. My voice had to be heard. I am a religious person, a Christian and an avid reader of the word of God. Nowhere in the whole Bible is abuse tolerated, allowed or accepted. God’s plan about us is for us to prosper and be in good health. So by default I had to choose “no to violence”.
The mode that was employed was unchristian I have to admit, there was a better way of salvaging the situation that is already out of hand. I looked for the moralists, they were out of sight, looked for the culturists, I could not find them, I searched for the religious folk, they can only speak in their hushed tones within the four corners of the holy temple. You see, I am one person who believes in action, the same Bible that I hold dearly says;
“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” James 2:17?
According to the one scripture that I have cited above, a Christian with faith is one who is pragmatic in nature, not one who wavers between the two sides. It was our time as Christians through our different structures to issue statements of disapproval and even contribute to the fight against violence. If we are not going to help, help will come from another place. This was therefore a wake-up call for Christians like me. What the abused need right now is assistance not theories. I therefore urge us all to unite against maladies that are invading our land. If we are going to turn a blind eye, the world will seek ways of helping itself out.
Do not get me wrong, I do not like nudity walks or such kind of protests but if we don’t act, they will surely act. No one is exempt from abuse; you may be having a vulnerable wife, sister, mother, grandmother or daughter. If an abuser gropes on them, their pain becomes your pain.
The seminars and sermons that we do at our churches within the four corners of the church might not be far reaching, Our Lord Jesus commanded us to go out to all nations and preach. Let’s go out! I borrow from the words of Sir Winston Churchill,
“We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender”.