Ntlo ya Dikgosi was on Monday divided over the move to consider amending the Penal Code in order to raise the age of consent from 16 to 18, with some traditional leaders falling short of painting the request as a waste of time as even previous attempts failed to address the situation.
As much as he will not want his daughter to be engaged in sexual tendencies at an early age, Kgosi Moipolai argued the situation on the ground pointed otherwise as even the under 12 were sexual active.
“What is important is the change of mindset of our children. We should ask ourselves if the amendment is important considering the laws we have passed in the past surrounding the situation,” Kgosi Moipolai argued.
He added: “We should teach them what is right and wrong otherwise we run the risk of piling laws which are not enforced and will not bring us anywhere.”
Kgosi Malema of Bobirwa Region moved a motion calling for Ntlo Ya Dikgosi to consider increasing the age of sexual consent from 16 to 18, insisting school going females were the victims of sexual defilement and pregnancy at the hands of unscrupulous adult men.
Hundreds of pregnancies are reported annually, with the previous year totaling 453 pregnancies which according to Kgosi Malema is a great challenge to both the government and families of the victims.
“Form five leavers are the main victims whose age is roughly 18 and are not yet responsible enough,” he noted, calling on his colleagues to endorse the motion to answer the plight of the female children and by so doing protecting them.
While he considers the importance of the motion, Kgosi Tshipe Tshipe of Mahalapye Region cited the conflicting laws currently in place hampering the smooth operations of the envisaged law should the motion be adopted.
“The laws we have passed consider 18 year olds as mature enough to make their own decisions. They can be employed and enjoy the benefits of employment let alone even cast their votes during national elections,” Tshipe for his part argued, urging colleagues to consider other existing laws first as even 18 year olds could be married.
Taking to the floor Kgosi Maruje Masunga argued it was important that the children be protected anytime as they are the vulnerable group.
“Just as much as the government protected the interests of 18 year olds to cast their vote during election time the same should be extended to them on special basis as students,” he said, adding the move was possible on a sovereign state such as Botswana.
Responding to the deliberations Assistant Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Phillip Makgalemele revealed the issue at hand was complex and requiring analytical response.
“In some cases the victims are so much in love with the accused persons that they refuse to stand to give evidence against them. It is even more difficult with the 17 year olds,” he said standing for the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security.
With the children of today growing much faster physically, Assistant Minister said for the 18 year olds the move will be much more challenging.
“It is even difficult for the prosecutors as the perpetrators allege appropriate age on account of their appearance,” Makgalemele said.
He concluded: “The matter is not just simple. It requires much more analysis and comprehension before a decision is made.”
Calling for adoption of the motion, the House could not reach a consensus, resulting in the Speaker of Ntlo Ya Dikgsoi Puso Gaborone subjecting them to a vote which turned into a fierce battle.
16 voted in support of the motion against 13 while 3 abstained including Kgosi Kgari Sechele and Kgosi Kealetile Moremi.