Social Media exposes extent of Botswana’s date rape

13 Jan 2019

By Mpho Kuhlmann

When Zinedine Giola went public via social media and spoke about being raped on her 21st birthday, Botswana’s cybersphere went on a tailspin. Hordes of Batswana women came out of the cracks with stories similar.

Social media has since been buzzing with posts, naming and shaming alleged local sex predators, mostly celebrities. This has provided a peep show into the dark world of Botswana’s date rape, exposing for the first time the pervasive scope of sexual violation in Botswana women’s lives.

Detailing her story on social media, Zinedine recalls how on the night of her birthday she and her friends went to the club and ended up continuing the celebration at a friend’s home, the same friend who would later force himself on her. All it took was a shot of tequila and everything went black. She remembers waking up and feeling someone push up against her. Though her vision was blurry she could make out her rapist’s silhouette after which she passed out again.

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology lecturer at the University Of Botswana says “we have been made to believe that rape is something triggered by sexual arousal–that the men and women who have fallen victim to assault triggered or ignited a passion within their rapist by their beauty, flirtation, or something of the sort. Rape is not about sex. Rape is about power. It’s about hearing the word “no,” and being angered. It’s about dominating someone else. Date rape is pre-planned. Clearly when a man or woman stalks you in the night or puts a controlled substance in your drink, the rape was pre-planned, perhaps less obvious. When a guy at a party purposely pours a heavy hand of alcohol to get you intoxicated–that is rape. When a guy keeps pressuring you because you will cave–that is rape. Rape is methodical. Because of the tolerance of rape culture, it appears “animalistic,” but it is something premeditated.”

The biggest misconception about rape is that rapists are big scary men who wait in dark alleys for unsuspecting women to pass by, alone and unprotected. You might think that rape is committed by unknown monsters, terrifying strangers and the kind of people you would never surround yourself with. But you would be wrong as Zinedine Giola’s case has proved.

Most Batswana rank the seriousness of a rape based on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim. An assault by a stranger is more likely to be seen as a 'real rape' than one by some-one known to the victim. Because of this cultural conception, many date rapes are considered to be less serious than stranger rapes because of the nature of the perpetrator-victim relationship, especially for those who have had a prior or current sexual relationship. 

The emotional trauma attached to date rape is lifelong and society makes it difficult for victims to cope. Usually with date rape, men assume that if a woman has agreed to have lunch or a drink with them or even come to their house it means she agrees to their sexual advances even though they did not make his sexual intentions verbally clear. It is about power relations – where a man perceives a woman’s acceptance of his invitation in a skewed way due to societal norms and preconceived ideas, this is particularly problematic because the victim often buys into  this concept and convinces herself that she deserved it by saying ‘I let him’, ‘ I allowed him to do this’. In most cases women blame themselves for accepting stuff from men –be it airtime, drinks or  money and society perpetuates this because there is an assumption that dressing a certain way  and taking gifts from a man equates to consent to sexual activity.  Because drugs and alcohol are often involved in date rape, victims do not often remember details of the attack and sometimes don’t even know they have been violated. The sad reality is that rape is underreported due to fear of retaliation or intimidation by the perpetrator, the personal humiliation as a rape victim and/ or the fear of causing pain to loved ones. Another reason why rape victims are reluctant to report is the lack of faith in the criminal justice system as the case was with Zinedine whose rape case docket went mysteriously missing. 

Tina Mogware who works at an Orange Botswana store in Rail Park says she is happy a lot of females are coming out with their stories of rape and naming and shaming the perpetrators. “It is sickening how someone can take advantage of the other the way Zinedine’s rapist did but I am glad all the other women are coming out with their stories. Naming and shaming might not be enough but atleast it’s a start for everyone to know the kind of men we live amongst. We have witnessed the overwhelming support for Zinedine, how men and women all came together to fight for this injustice.”

Tshepang Motoane who works at Bosh Service Motor Sales & Service in Broadhurst says thanks to rape culture, merely existing as a woman is dangerous business.“Being a woman is not only scary because of the hooded figure waiting for you in an empty parking lot, or the shady guy harassing you at the bar or the violent threats you get online, it is terrifying because of the people you do know – because we live in a society that has normalized sexual violence. The truth is, most acts of sexual assault and rape are committed by someone the victim knows.”