It's Time To Act Against Rape

We are in the New Year, time for a fresh new start. In years gone by we would be talking resolutions; losing weight, new business ideas, thinking and talking of all things positive. Not in 2019.

It’s election year, and already signs are there that these may be the most tense, with potential of violent electioneering. The ideal of a peaceful nation the world know us of, is fast fading, especially as we watch the fireworks in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). 

The power battles between the former president Ian Khama and the incumbent Mokgweetsi Masisi has warmongers eager to strike the fire, push the battle a notch up; while the peace loving compatriots wish we can return to normality. Whatever normality means.

This year started on the wrong footing. From the word go, in the first week of January, we were not just hit with high statistics of deaths on the road, worse, violent crimes of rape. Reported rape statistics from the Botswana Police rose alarm, with 109 within just the festive period of December 25, 2018 to January 01, 2019.

As expected, social media went ablaze.

As it happened in 2017 when a ruling party councillor in Sebina, Kemmonye Amon was accused of impregnating a young student in Nata, and social media took him on, leading to the formation of a hashtag social network, #IshallNotForget, this week especially, on Facebook and Twitter, debate on rapists and potential rapists was at its highest. As usual, social “expects” came to the party, attempting to advice women on how to behave, dress, and where and how to get entertainment without exposing themselves to rape or any form of violence.

Bless them! I don’t blame them, as mostly are men who in trying to find solution to ending these heinous crimes against women and children, have no idea that all they are doing is victim blame. Saying you should have money to entertain yourself when going out, as my good friend and activist Uyapo Ndadi suggested, is saying women are raped because they depend on men for entertainment.

It saying you are availing yourself to the abuse. Then one has to pause to say good advice, but then it means men who go out to entertain women friends, are doing so to rape them. What about women who go out, buy themselves drinks, even non-alcoholic drinks, but have their drinks spiked, and once incapacitated, are dragged out to be raped? Or even sober, get outside the entertainment venue, are grabbed by a psycho and violated? 

And at office parties, where the employer is the sponsor, but the victim and the culprits are colleagues, even a boss raping a secretary in the office? What about those children raped in schools by those they look up to, teachers? What about those in the church, violated by the ‘Man of God’? Worse, in the home, a father, husband, uncle, cousin raping a child, a mother, even a son violating a grandmother?

Rape happens everywhere, and all women, and children are at risk. Even the boy child is molested in the confines of the church, as the rise in cases of sodomy by Catholic priests prove. We have heard of cases of boys in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and other tourism centres, where sick old men, organise orgies, and take turn raping “chosen” boys. This is how sick this world is.

So instead of victim blaming, we should be all rising. A few women in this country have taken on the battle, as do male colleagues. We need more. We need leaders in the church, the chiefs, politicians, and just about everyone in leadership to stand and make a declaration, and walk the talk against rape and any other form of gender based violence. The victim blame mentality should end. The Botswana Police bosses, who find it urgent and critical to go to Btv to threaten victims of this hideous crime, should instead be seriously investigating reported cases.

It is so disheartening to hear a senior police officer saying alleged culprits named and shamed on social media should lodge cases of defamation against the alleged victims. Yes, I admit there those among us who, out of revenge or whatever reason, will cry foul and accuse, especially high profile individuals of violation.

The police job is to investigate and get to the bottom of the truth, not intimidate, as such calls to persecute alleged victims, tend to. Like any other form of sexual violation, it is hard to step forward to report rape, especially by a powerful monied someone. So if, as it happened in the last weeks, an opportunity arises, in the form of social media platforms to tell one’s disheartening story, many would, and many have.

Some find it as a healing process. And many truths come out. The police and the media’s job is to investigate and the truth come out. In my years in journalism, I have learnt that rape victims, having lived in the terror of the violations, once counselled, stay the course of the truth. All we need to do is listen, counsel and allow them to heal. Not to revive the pain by threats, from the police who are supposed to be on their side.

But then, rape as with many forms of gender based violence, has been institutionalised. We have, as a nation, for too long protected the perpetrators at the expense of victims. May it’s time we politicise rape and GBV. Maybe it’s time we demand GBV and rape top the political agenda, have it clearly articulated with specifics in the manifestos, and party policy documents. Leaders accused of rape or GBV be denied the right to stand for political office. We should start now, with these elections. And demand publication of registration of child molesters and rapist, now, not in years to come.

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