If may have taken a long time coming (six years) but the president of the Botswana National Front, Duma Boko, has finally come around on the use of “gender-based violence” in public lexicon.
In a wide-ranging speech at the party’s national conference in Gaborone during the President’s Day holiday, Boko introduced the next time as “gender-based violence” as he went along.
“Some men abuse, physically assault and kill women,” he said. “As BNF leaders, we must respond appropriately to this situation. We must educate both elderly and younger men that abuse degrades the dignity of the culprit himself.”
While Boko singled out women as victims, that was certainly not what he said back in 2016 when he was Leader of the Opposition and MP for Gaborone Bonnington North. Not only did he reject use of “gender-based violence” term, he also challenged ministers – or anyone else for that matter, to prove otherwise.
“I am not going to apportion [violence] by gender. There is a lot of violence in this society, and there is a lot of violence because we train children even at school that violence is the way to resolve problems. You tell them, if you spare or you have trained yourself that you must not spare the rod, you spoil the child. So, you beat children up, you encourage your teachers to beat children up, and when they grow up, they beat each other up across gender. Men beat women up, women beat men up, and there is a lot of violence on men from women that is not declared,” he said.
A lawyer by training and trade, Boko further argued that there was need to deal with the spectra of violence in a general sense.
“That is what the law does: the Penal Code does not tell us if you beat up a woman or if you beat up a man; it just says violence. Maybe you want to amend the law and start talking specifically about male or female violence, but violence in terms of the law is not gendered. So, let us deal with violence – and there is a lot of it. Let us deal with violence generally. I do not understand your logic and I may have to engage with those who articulate this concept of gender-based violence. Violence is violence.”
Another lawyer who plied his trade in parliament (in a non-political context at the time) has also made the same legalistic argument about the idea and phenomenon of “marital rape.” As Attorney General, Phandu Skelemani attended parliament to provide legal advice and during one sitting, had to tackle the question of whether legally, a husband can be said to have raped his wife. In response, Skelemani, who is now the Speaker of the National Assembly, said “rape is rape” regardless of the relationship between the culprit and the victim. Around the same time or shortly thereafter, Btv also tackled the same topic in a programme that featured future High Court judge, Kabelo Lebotse, who, in deviating from Skelemani’s position, dismissed the idea of marital rape.