Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Gender Based Violence and HIV/AIDS: What is Botswana’s policy agenda?┬á

“When my husband wants sex, he never asks. If I try to refuse, he beats me and forces himself into me. When I refuse, he accuses me of having a lover…. That’s when he kicks me from the bed onto the floor, and then drags me back onto the bed and rapes me.

Although many of us including some high ranking politicians, CEO’s, tenderpreneurs, high ranking police officers,  high ranking soldiers, garden boys, golfers, medical doctors, legal eagles and psychologists, etc, may pretend to be surprised that such behavior may be assumed not to be normal, the truth is we are being be economical with the truth. While many ethnic groupings may perceive this as foreign to their cultural practices and believes and norm when together they praise it and even go to the extent of boosting about it.  The Kalanga does for example have their own celebrated Nkazana cultural practice, while the Bamangwato have their own “Mantsala”. What more of those tribes that practice the barbaric type IV of female genital mutilation which involves the stretching of female genitalia (commonly referred to as “Ditopi”) to enhance sexual performance during sexual intercourse.

Trust me dear reader such conversations are considered a taboo, but much celebrated and accepted once the male counter parts become aware of their existence.

G e n d e r-based violence (GBV) is increasingly recognized as a public health problem and a violation of human rights. Furthermore, reproductive health workers are often the only health care providers many women see. These professionals are on the front line in treating women who survive who survive physical, sexual and mental abuse. Yet, most reproductive health programs are not equipped to handle such cases.

GBV is defined as a multitude of harmful behaviors, most frequently perpetrated by men against girls and women. Cultural beliefs and values that subordinate the status of females contribute to legitimizing GBV. GBV is serious and pervasive problem that undermines progress in Reproductive Health and HIV, it directly affects women access to services, specifically their ability to obtain contraceptives including their right to abort.

GBV can pervade the entire life cycle of a woman, from the moment a girl child is conceived throughout her life cycle (e.g., female genital mutilation [FGC]). Men who hurt women can be intimate partners, family members, and/or other men. Violence against women can take many forms: sexual abuse, physical violence, emotional or psychological abuse, verbal abuse, and specific acts of violence during pregnancy. Men can harm women by limiting their access to paying lobola, passion killings, and or honor killings, and by coercing them through sexual and marriage battering system where some families use their girl child to accumulate wealth by selling their daughters to gain financially. In extreme worse situations some families marry their poor girls to families where those families’ daughters have been butchered through passion killings more than once and often times such barbaric acts committed in the same house. Or they marry their daughters to spaza husbands, alcoholics who have abandoned their own kids, often times residing in health hazardous areas using pit latrines and going to under rated schools and working tirelessly as con- artists just to make quick bucks to satisfy their latest catches and their new immoral families and boosting about other Men’s kids who go to top elite schools in sheebeens.

The above mainly comes as a result of the believe system and socialization that paves way for the barbaric traditional immoral practices that support the thesis that women and men are socialized to accept GBV as normative. That is believing that men and women believe that husbands are justified in beating their wives for such reason as answering back and or arguing with him , going out without telling him, refusing to have sex and or  burning the food and believing that they should be beaten if they refused to have sex with their husbands. .All the above often leads to serious risk factors such as rigid gender roles, isolation of women, less education for women, higher parity and alcohol abuse.

On the other hand it is worth noting that historically, sexual and reproductive health programs all but ignored male partners, despite the fact that both sexes are essential to human procreation.  But this is no longer the case as in the past years have showed a significant shift to accord greater attention to men. However, there is still lack good understanding of men’s reproductive behavior, and the nature and dynamics of the gendered politics of reproduction.

To my mind, this is mainly because most work on the subject still stems from a narrow, “problem-oriented” approach. For example, the many studies of men’s “role” in massive social issuesÔÇösuch as the spread of HIV, rising rates of single motherhood, marriage battering and or pregnancy in adolescent womenÔÇöreduce “men’s role” to a single or small number of discrete variables.

However, conversations on Reproductive Health and Gender based Violence gained space and on May 1, 2002, more than 130 program managers, policymakers, service providers, and trainers attended a daylong technical update on Gender Based Violence (GBV) and Reproductive Health/HIV (RH/HIV) hosted by the inter- agency Gender Working Group (IGWG) of USAID Group (IGWG) of USAID, in collaboration with the Center for Health and Gender Equity (CHANGE). The objective of the meeting was to, launch a process for considering GBV in relation to RH and HIV in U S A I D’s population, health, and explore ways of integrating GBV into RH/HIV programs. While the term GBV encompasses many forms of aggression toward and abuse of girls and women, the Technical Update focused specifically on intimate partner violence (IPV).

It is this meeting; CHANGE presented its initial results from   its worldwide mapping survey on programs that address GBV and its plans for developing a framework for integrating GBV into RH programs based on the information collected through survey responses. Participants then heard about diff e rent ways of integrating GBV into existing programs. Representatives from the following organizations spoke:

The Women’s Resource Center in India, which succeeded in including gender and GBV in the required training for health professionals in the public sector. The Medical Research Council,

which adapted the Stepping Stones methodology to South African culture  integrated GBV into its health program? Engender Health, which, in collaboration with the Planned Parenthood Association of South Africa, is working with men to challenge the social norms that accept the use of violence against women. Speakers and participants addressed the need to standardize methodologies in surveying populations about GBV, and to develop indicators for measuring success.

Many felt that RH goals can only be achieved by addressing GBV, and that GBV must be dealt with in order to increase access to family planning and continued use of contraceptive methods,  the ability to negotiate safer sex; access to other RH services, such as antenatal care and HIV testing and support services and gender equity.

And perhaps despite the challenges that Women are faced with globally, in Botswana one may submit a claim that Women are their worst enemies. They look down upon each other, have no respect for one another, do not support one another, are jealous of one another, engage in petty gossip against each other  and this situation is exacerbated by new money, women elites some of whom forget their own backgrounds once they taste goodies.  Thinking they are the voice of the voiceless mainly because of their social status and marriages abroad. Their social status clouds their judgment.

And by the way for the past 51 years, Botswana has never had a woman on its Court of Appeal Bench. The chance to remedy this was refused by the BDP majority in Parliament on the night of the 5th April 2017. It is alleged that at the forefront of the refusal were women MPs Venson Motoi and Dorcas Makgatho.

*Thabo Lucas Seleke is a researcher and scholar in Health Policy and Health Systems

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