A few years ago, prominent local attorney, Kgosietsile Ngakaagae found himself at the receiving end of a fiery national outrage for defendingTaboka Tsotso Moaro who was accused of murdering a local beauty queen, Lungile Ndlangamandla.
The gruesome murder was such a chilling deviation from Botswana’s usual gender-based violence that the country was left desperately trying to make sense of it. The national reaction, however was all too familiar; everyone lashed out at the senseless monster and forgot about the society that created him and allowed the heinous act to happen.
“The Gender Based Violence Indicators Study Botswana” by the Woman’s Affairs Department has however revealed that Botswana has become a non-stop production line of such monster.” Just Crunch the numbers, join the dots and a scary outline emerges: According to the report, 67 % of Batswana women have experienced some form of gender violence in their lifetime including partner and non-partner violence. About three in every five Batswana women (62%)
experienced violence in an intimate relationship. According to the World Population Review (2019) Botswana recorded the second highest rape cases in the world at 92.9 cases per 100 000 citizens. The Report by Women’s Affairs Department and Gender Links however revealed that the actual numbers are much higher. “Only 1.2% of Batswana women reported cases of GBV to the police in the same period. Thus, the prevalence of GBV reported in the survey is 24 times higher than that reported to the police. This suggests that levels of GBV are far higher than those recorded in official statistics and that women have lost faith in the very systems that should protect them as well as offer redress.
Just crunch the numbers, add the psych-sociological impact to the mix, then join the dots and a scary picture emerges: The GBV violence is feeding on itself. For thousands of Batswana children who are witnessing GBV in their homes, the abuse will not end with their childhood and will probably outlive them many generations over.
The survey report states that, “Experiences of abuse throughout life can influence an individual’s inclination to engage in family violence either as a victim or as a perpetrator. …. A significantly higher proportion of male victims of child sexual abuse admit to being abusive: 19% of men sexually abused as children perpetrated sexual intimate partner violence (IPV) compared to only four percent of men not sexually abused. Thirty nine percent of sexually abused men Table 4.3 shows a correlation between witnessing mother abuse and perpetration of emotional or physical IPV and rape. A greater proportion of women that saw or heard their mothers being abused, compared to those women that did not witness this, experienced emotional and physical IPV. Over half the women (52%) who witnessed mother abuse also experienced emotional IPV. About four in every ten women (41%) who witnessed mother abuse also experienced physical IPV. Fourteen percent of women that witnessed mother abuse experienced rape.
A greater proportion of men who witnessed their mothers being abused became abusive themselves.
Forty nine percent of men who witnessed mother abuse perpetrated emotional IPV. Forty five percent
of men that witnessed mother abuse perpetrated physical IPV. Nineteen percent of men who witnessed
mother abuse raped.
Dr Poloko Ntshwarang, senior Social Work lecturer at the University of Botswana explained the vicious cycle of abuse: “When one partner hurts another with fists or words in an intimate relationship, it’s rarely a single, isolated incident, though the victim often treats the first occurrence as such. Abuse follows a pattern, and abusers follow a playbook, using tactics such as physical force, intimidation, financial and emotional withholding, and threats of punishment—physical harm, emotional blackmail, or both to dominate and control their partners. What underlies the abusive dynamic, there’s the abuser’s personality and how it was shaped in childhood. Regardless of the personality issues, which are often complex, abuse manifests itself in behavior, and abusers consider abusive behavior not only acceptable but also justified both a right and a privilege. When they treat another person – a person they claim to love as lacking rights, less than equal, and deserving punishment and harm, it’s because they feel entitled to do so. And this entitlement is often specific to the intimate relationship. They don’t abuse their bosses, their colleagues, or their friends, which makes the abused partner doubt that anything is wrong. They present their behavior in the relationship as normal and frame their abusive actions as “normal reactions”. Botswana’s gender-based violence is not helped by the country’s traditional patriarchy which has defied the country’s education trends and gender friendly laws.
While Botswana has been able to achieve gender parity in its education system, this has not rolled back the national patriarchy. According to the report by Women’s Affairs Department and Gender Links, “access and equity at all levels of the education system has improved. Gender parity has been achieved in primary and secondary education (MDG 2010). In Botswana school enrolment levels are high and the enrolment of girls exceeds that of boys at all levels,
except science and technology and vocational training. Education indicators include: Equal proportions of women and men (83%) are literate in Botswana; Equal proportion of girls and boys (50%) are enrolled in primary schools; Fifty two percent of students in secondary schools are girls; Fifty three percent of students in tertiary education are girls; Thirty seven percent of teachers are women.”
However, women are still unable to break the political and national decision-making glass ceiling. “While women form a significant proportion of the electorate, they hold very few political positions:6 8% of Members of Parliament and 18% of local councillors” states the report. And therein lies part of the problem. According to Women’s Affairs Department and Gender Links, “The findings from the survey and police data show that GBV is the most flagrant violation of human rights in Botswana at the present time, yet only 6% of the 188 speeches by politicians over the last year focused on GBV while 9% made some mention of the scourge. Only 5% of monitored news articles from Botswana covered GBV and in these perpetrators were three times more likely to be heard than survivors.”
Dr Sophie Moagi, psychologist in Gaborone gives a psychologist’s take on the power dynamics in Botswana’s GBV crisis, “In the process of a relationship where a man uses certain abusive “tactics” on a woman, any or all can be used in any order, at any time. Usually in the beginning of the relationship, criticism and withdrawal are the two most used tactics that lead the man to have an increased sense of power and control, and the woman to have a decreased sense of power and control. The man’s self-esteem will go up as the woman’s self-esteem goes down. The man will establish his dominance, and the woman will become timid and submissive. Over time she will adopt a victim’s role and, when he is around, she will feel that she is walking on eggshells. Tactics used by abusers include: private criticism leading to doubt and hurt; public criticism leading to shame or humiliation; threats of emotional or physical withdrawal leading to abandonment; withdrawal of money or sexual contact that leads to a devaluation of financial power or decrease in sexual self-esteem; verbal threats that can begin a process of fear; verbal and physical tirades or tantrums that can leave the victim feeling helpless; and finally, physical aggression that can lead to fears of physical death.”