In the previous piece, we started exploring what individuals can do in keeping with this year’s theme for 16 Days of Activism.
We started with four points and in the present piece we will explore more of what can be done at individual level.
This year’s theme for the 16 days is “Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape!” the suggested action points will therefore be aligned with standing against rape.
It is unignorable that Botswana has been placed with countries such as South Africa, as leading in the numbers of reported rape and sexual violence cases. In 2019 alone, there have been 2,000 rape cases reported so far.
The 2018 Relationship Study indicates that this merely accounts for approximately 20% of the actual rape incidents that have occurred. This suggests that there have been approximately 10,000 rape incidents that have occurred in this year, with 8,000 of them being unreported.
The necessary change will not be immediate. With social status quo paralysis, and a reluctance to collectively change, it is critical that we imagine ways of intervening and taking action at an individual level as well as at national level. In the previous piece, we minded ourselves with actions that can be taken by individuals. It is imperative to move the discussion to national and policy level.
Integrate economic and gender empowerment strategies
Botswana has a number of interventions aimed specifically at empowering women, economically, in addition to general national interventions. The gap, however, is in that, although in general, some women are becoming more economically empowered, with improved well-being, the impact of these improvements on gender-based violence (GBV) is almost invisible. The rate of GBV and particularly sexual gender based violence incidents is on a steady increase. There is a need to add relationship negotiation to skills development and economic empowerment drives. There is also need for community level interventions in this regard.
Increasing women’s ownership of property, assets and securing their property rights
This would involve awareness raining to all community members, and thematically, women. The intervention should be aimed at assisting women in securing their inheritance rights, by training them in a rights-based programme. There is also need to pointedly provide legal services to women whose assets; land and property rights are violated. The culture of preparing wills is one that needs to be cultivated. If paralegals are trained, to assist women, especially in rural communities, to draft wills to ensure the protection of their property, this will help safeguard the property. The laws and policies are quite adequate in this area. What is lacking is practice.
Working with men and boys to promote gender equitable attitudes and behaviours
Promoting laws to address violence against women and gender equality and equity
In Botswana, many people are unaware of the protections offered by the national Domestic Violence Act, the Children’s Act, and offences in the Penal Code. Often enough, this increases women’s vulnerability to violence. The laws are not enforced, and people are placed at greater risks. This intervention demands indepth advocacy and strategic collaboration with civil society, who often times have the skills and capacity to critically analyse the ways in which laws and policies are used, the impact of this on society, and the resultant impact on society. It demands that there be indepth training of attorneys who ensure processes of access to justice, as well as healthcare workers and religious and customary law leaders. The gap in this area remains in the need to strongly enforce and condemn GBV through strict criminalisation of it, and expeditiously dealing with crimes related to it. Rape, and molestation offences often take years in the judicial system, with few being adequately and satisfactorily concluded. Many other cases do not even see their day in Court, after they have been reported. Many cases are stuck at the investigative stages, which delays justice for the survivors. Reformation in this regard would positively affect the rate of reportings of cases as survivors would be confident that their matters will be dealt with and effectively.
This piece addressed what government can do in addition to and to improve already existing interventions. The growing rate of violence in our nation is evidence that we are in a state of emergency in this regard, although the same is yet to be declared. Our state is however not hopeless. Our government should look deeper into what it is already doing, in order to fill in the gaps and support civil society organisations whose work is to combat GBV on a daily basis.