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Let us take a knee for our women

KGOSIETSILE NGAKAAGAE
I know many women who died like George Floyd.

My whole professional life has been lived on the ringside of domestic violence. Incidents like we have been seeing on TV, remind us of systemic injustices that still prevail in our society. They challenge us all to take decisive action. I know that my government  can bring an end to domestic violence in all its manifestations. It is simply not up there in its list of priorities.  We just spent P2.4 Billion to protect ourselves against a virus that has so far claimed only one precious life. How much have we spent, specifically, to protect our women and daughters from violence that has so far claimed thousands of women’s lives?

At the DCEC, they have a unit devoted to teaching the public about corruption. At the Transport Department, they have a unit for road safety. The Botswana police even have a stocktheft unit with dedicated personnel and resources. At the Police and DPP, they don’t have a unit devoted to teaching the public about gender violence. In Parliament, no one speaks strongly about gender violence. Our leaders only throw salvos at each other, about corruption and spend their time defending the President. Our priorities are warped up.

If America is guilty of systemic racism, Botswana is guilty of a systemic, gender holocaust. Women are killed daily in instalments. If you are a man, sitting at home, and you are consumed with indignation about the killing of George Floyd, and you have never felt the same way regarding the killing of women in this country, then you are a hypocrite. 

Yes, the killing of Floyd was filmed and received global media coverage; that’s your explanation. But then, that exactly is the problem. We fail to imagine, even for a moment, what women who get killed go through. Those whose killings are not filmed just become statistics, and are soon forgotten. We just march past them. We are collectively guilty of failing to accentuate the horrors of gender violence. I have said it over and over again, that those who perpetuate the violence have the primary duty to end it. But, is there any sign that the country is moving in that direction? Is there a sign that men are evolving into better people and working harder towards ending the gender violence ravaging society? No, they are just struggling for power. In fact, someone accused of gender violence was made a minister responsible for women’s affairs.

Once, a middle-aged woman walked into my office. She had been a victim of gender violence all her married life. She wanted a divorce. It was hard penning down the account of her suffering and I will not do so

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here for obvious, professional reasons. At some point, she was all tears and couldn’t even talk. She insisted on taking off her blouse to show me her scars, accumulated over the years . I declined, purely on grounds of decency. I asked if she would take pictures of her scars in private and send the same through to me. They would be needed in court, anyway. Well, she did. I cried at how brutal a man could be to someone they claim to love. There is something gravely wrong with this country.

I recall a case prosecuted by a colleague of mine, back in my prosecution days. This man, set his wife up on a chair, and hung her from the rafters, with their infant son watching. When the son would not cease crying, and continued pleading and begging for his mother’s life, as she dangled, he cut her down. When trial commenced, I was at the High Court, in Lobatse, attending to my own prosecutorial briefs. Soon as I was done with my briefs, I rushed to the other court. I had read the docket. All I wanted, was to see the man behind it all. I wanted to see if he looked anything like me or like my father.  Lo and behold, they came to court together; the accused and the complainant. I learnt they were back, living as husband and wife. I cannot recall if I used the sixth letter of the alphabet that morning. If you ever wondered, how boys grow up to become scoundrels in their manhood, it is because we, their fathers, are scoundrels.

Take this example of another matter I did in my prosecution days. It started off as a jealous tiff, with absolutely no substance. When the young lady’s son hung up his school tie in the wardrobe after school, he could not have known that the next person to wear it, would be his mother. Later in the evening, his mother’s boyfriend put it around her neck, threw it around the foot of a bed for leverage, and strangled her to death.  The mother, to the child, was one of the people who gave evidence.

Yet these are not the most gruesome examples of gender violence that come to mind. If you bear a man, and you are raising girls, know that these are the conditions of life you are preparing them for. We need a President, who can put ending gender violence at the top of his agenda. We need a male minister who can lead it.

Of course, we are still talking about Masisi, Ram, and Banyana farms. Re mono fela.



Chief On Friday

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