Civil society Organisations have sharply criticized Parliament for refusing to adopt a motion by Member of Parliament (MP) for Mahalapye East Yandani Boko calling for an inquiry into escalating cases of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
In a hard- hitting statement, the civil society organizations expressed “disappointment at the shocking light-handedness with which our political leaders respond to the current national crisis of Gender Based Violence (GBV) which is ravaging our country.”
The organisations are Botswana Centre for Public Integrity (BCPI), Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre (BGBVC), Botswana Labour Migrants Association (BoLAMA), Botswana Substance Abuse Network (BOSASNet), CHILDLINE Botswana, DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, Emang Basadi, Friends of Diversity, Inclusive Directions – Botswana, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), Men and Boys for Gender Equality (MBGE), Molao Matters, Molayakgosi, Putting Women First Trust, Save Widows and Orphans Organisation Botswana, Skillshare International Botswana, Southern African Alcohol Policy Alliance Botswana (SAAPA-Botswana), Stepping Stones International (SSI), WoMen Against Rape (WAR) and Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa (YALDA – Botswana).
According to these ogranisations, the cases continue to soar all across the country, leading to women and children being stripped off their dignity and, in some instances, their lives.
They said this is a clear indication that Botswana is in a state of emergency and the safety of women, children and the elderly are at stake.
They said the government of Botswana is the primary custodian of the rights of Batswana. Its failure to protect them against GBV perpetuates what has become a gross violation of basic fundamental human rights.
“We are calling on the government of Botswana to take heed of and take responsibility for the safety of Batswana. We are aware that GBV has often been trivialised as being ‘mere bickering’ and misunderstanding within intimate relationships,” the organisations said.
They noted that GBV is a national crisis and not the preserve of any particular political party.
Botswana, like other countries in the SADC region, in the continent and globally, has seen an increase in gender-based violence over the years.
They said although GBV is not confined to any gender, most survivors are women and children.
The organisations further expressed disappointment that Parliament fails to take cognisance of the urgent need to deal with and the current GBV crisis as a matter of emergency.
“Since the commencement of extreme social distancing on 2 April 2020 until 30 June 2020, approximately 461 clients were provided with Psychosocial Support (PSS) through online, telephone and face-to-face counselling by CSO organisations. To date, 121 of the 461 GBV survivors have been admitted to places of shelter and refuge,” the Civil Society said.
These statistics, the organisations said, are a clear indication that indeed “we have a problem in our country and that this issue cuts across all demographics,” adding: “We therefore call on the political leadership to act with accountability towards the people of Botswana.”
They added that “We support the call for a Commission of Inquiry into Gender Based Violence, Rape and Other Sexual Offences (proposed by Member of Parliament Yandani Boko), as we believe it will help the country to identify the causes, existing gaps and practical strategies to enable the current government prevention and response strategy to GBV in Botswana.”
The decision to establish an Inter-Ministerial Committee falls far short of the spirit of the original motion, the Civil Society said.
“Instead of an independent body headed by a judge (retired or in office), the decision will not enable a national response to the GBV crisis, but a government response.
Calling for GBV to be declared a National Crisis and Emergency and for it to be treated with the necessary attention which it deserves, the Civil Society added that this is critically important as the country has enough evidence to indicate that GBV has indeed reached epidemic levels.
“We urgently call for the implementation of the fully funded National Strategy Towards Ending Gender Based Violence in Botswana by 2020 with immediate effect, through government working in partnership with civil society and the private sector. We call on our leadership to demonstrate political will by introducing stringent survivor-oriented laws, ensuring implementation, and safeguarding the well-being of our communities, especially of women and children,” the organisations said.
Government was also called on to affirm its commitment to establishing a non-partisan and independent National Council on GBV, rape and other sexual crimes which will provide strategic leadership in implementing the National Strategy towards Ending GBV and facilitate resourcing, coordination and accountability in the response to GBV, rape and other sexual crimes.