The Ambassador of the European Union to Botswana and SADC Jan Sadek recently expressed that the gender-based violence (GBV) crisis has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during the official opening of the national workshop on COVID-19 and GBV held at Hilton Hotel recently, Sadek said the lockdowns and other restrictions halted efforts put in place to fight the scourge, which remains a major concern for the country.
“We have seen increased reports on GBV around the globe, and unfortunately Botswana is no exception. The lockdowns affected social patterns and family life. Botswana like many countries in Africa and the rest of the world registers a lot of GBV cases in a normal year. It is one of the most common yet unacknowledged and serious human rights violation in the SADC region,” he added.
Sadek also said according to 2018 national relationship study, one in three women in Botswana have experienced abuse in their lifetime. He further stated that the World Population Review (2019) places Botswana in an unenviable second position on rapes, with 93 cases per 100,000 citizens. Furthermore, Sadek said GBV is one of the most pervasive human rights violations in the world and one of the least prosecuted crimes. He said GBV is one of the greatest threats to lasting peace and development.
“We all know that we have to do much more to end these horrible abuses and the impunity that allows these human rights violations to continue. GBV has a tremendous cost to our communities. If left unaddressed these human rights violations pose serious consequences to current and future generations. They also halt our efforts to ensure peace and security, reduce poverty and to achieve the sustainable development goals,” Sadek
He added that the effects of violence can remain with the victims for a lifetime and can pass from one generation to another. Sadek revealed that studies show that children who have witnessed or been subjected to violence are more likely to become victims or abusers themselves.
“As EU we have been supporting this pandemic and have launched a large package to support the national COVID-19 response to fight the pandemic,” he said. Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police, Keabetswe Makgophe urged police officers to exercise professionalism and ethical conduct to ensure the dispensation of justice for GBV cases. He shared the same sentiments stating that GBV remains a topical issue and concern globally and Botswana has not been spared from this disturbing phenomenon.
Makgophe said even though the country has seen a general decline in most crimes during the lockdown period, restrictions in movement made it difficult for some victims to report cases to the police. He stated that cases of sexual violence, especially involving minors were prevalent during lockdown.
Furthermore, the commissioner said the police service has embarked on a vigorous campaign against the spread of GBV with awareness forums targeting both possible victims and the would-be perpetrators. “After realising the disparities that existed amongst different stations in handling GBV cases, the BPS developed Standard Operating Procedures as a standard tool for dealing with GBV reports. Plans are in place to establish a dedicated Gender and Child Protection unit, which will deal with among others domestic violence and sexual offences relating to children,” Makgophe said.