About 11% of girls in Botswana raped

Illustration: Stop rape
Illustration: Stop rape

FRANCISTOWN: The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) acting representative, Alexandra Illmer has revealed that about 11% of girls in Botswana report rape to the police.

Illmer said this recently during the handover of a child friendly police centre in Letlhakane village.

According to llmer, as in many countries, the COVID-19 pandemic in Botswana exposed and exacerbated several pre-existing vulnerabilities and has further marginalised at-risk population groups, including children.

She further said police records show an increase in sexual violence during the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, illustrated through a 20 % increase in defilement cases.

This situation was a direct result of children spending more time at home with potential abusers, who are often family members or known to the family, she added.

“An additional confounder in Botswana is the low reporting of cases of abuse with only one in nine girls reporting cases of rape to the police and only one in seven seeking medical attention,” said the concerned Illmer.

Therefore, she called on communities in Letlhakane and the surrounding areas to break the silence around child exploitation and abuse and ensure that cases are reported.

Due to rise of abuse cases, she said that a group of stakeholders, including the Botswana Police Services (BPS) and Ministry of Local Government and UNICEF took the decision to redesign the E Seng Mo Ngwaneng campaign.

She explained the national campaign was launched in Shakawe in August and has since moved east to engage different stakeholders in Masunga, Tutume, Rakops and Letlhakane to map a sustainable way of ending violence against children.

The first phase of the campaign focused on raising awareness on the impact of sexual exploitation on children and now the second phase aims to promote reporting of abuse cases to authorities such as police, social workers and the ChildLine helpline, she elaborated.

The campaign also focuses on unpacking social norms and harmful practices that pre-dispose children to abuse.

She was impressed to hear about the increasing openness of communities to discuss and address issues of abuse, which have in the past often been considered taboo subjects.

In particular, she stated that it was critical for all of them to come together to address the interconnected vulnerabilities of adolescent girls, around sexual abuse, teenage pregnancy, poor educational outcomes, and school drop-out. She congratulated BPS for its high-level of commitment to ending violence against children and to delivering quality child-friendly services to all children who are in contact with the law, whether as victims, witnesses or perpetrators of abuse.

She hoped that the new child friendly police centre will play a catalytic role in facilitating the reporting of cases of abuse. She also expressed gratitude to the government, UNICEF, the people of Japan for their generous support which enabled the establishment of this child-friendly police station.

In conclusion Illmer thanked the British government and the British National Crime Agency for their contribution to training police officers on child friendly methods of interviewing children.

She said that the centre will ensure that children can access the services they need and deserve to overcome the trauma of abuse and access justice. For his part BPS acting Commissioner Phemelo Ramakorwane said that they appreciate their active collaboration with the UNICEF, especially on issues affecting children.

Amongst other projects, UNICEF has assisted BPS with the development of Gender Based Violence (GBV) Standard Operating Procedures, Standard Operating Procedures for Child Friendly Policing (ongoing) as well as offered support in the establishment and or refurbishment of Child-Friendly centres.

Ramakorwane said that BPS established a Gender and Child Protection Branch in April, 2021, with an aim of ensuring an effective and coordinated approach to tackling GBV and child abuse cases.

The new child friendly facility, he stated that it will go a long way in fulfilling the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No.5 of eliminating all forms of violence (abuse, exploitation, trafficking, and torture against children by 2030 as well as our national Vision goal of achieving Prosperity for all by 2036.

Editor's Comment
Urgent call: Stop the killing!

The previous week, we had an article about a police officer shooting his wife, and turning the gun on himself, whilst he died, his wife survived and is still in the hospital.Sadly that was not the only article we carried on intimate partner killings. There was the Francistown case, where a young woman allegedly stabbed her ‘former boyfriend’ and many others which were reported throughout the week.As all the reports were coming in, a Botswana...

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