Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Gender-Based Violence in sport: Addressing the elephant in Botswana sports’ room

In one of his most poignant fables, The Inquisitive Man, Ivan Krylov writes of a man who goes to a museum and notices all creatures, ‘some smaller than a pin’s head.’

Ironically, the man did not notice a mountain like looking creature in the room, an elephant.

Like the inquisitive man in Krylov’s fable, for a long time, local sports administrators had failed to address the one big elephant in their own room, Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Long known to exist, the issue of GBV in sport has rarely been spoken to. Where it has been talked to, it has been in hushed tones.

According to reports, at least 67 percent of women in Botswana have experienced GBV. Ironically, while there are allegations of GBV in local sport, there however has been no reports of such.

Now however, local sport seems to be keen to break the silence and actively address the issue of GBV.

At the recent Botswana National Sports Commission (BNSC) Annual General Meeting (AGM), Board Chairperson Morula Morule talked to the issue.

In his address to affiliates, the BNSC Board chairperson said sport must ‘not just condemn GBV’ but should rather ‘actively play a part in addressing the issue.’

Morule’s address in a way marked a stark departure from what has previously been treated as a taboo in local sport.

In fact, the BNSC, through Women and Sport Botswana (WASBO) is in the process of putting in place sexual ahrrassment policies in part to address the issue.

Speaking on the issue of ‘Intervention, Response and Prevention of GBV in sport during Open Discussions with Tsosi Magang this past Wednesday, WASBO vice chairperson Dr Shikha Trivedi said the policies are expected to come into effect sometimes next year.

The policies, which are known as the Sexual Harassment Guidelines for Sport, are undertaken by WASBO at the request of the BNSC.

Dr Trivedi said the paramount reason for formulating the policies is to ‘take care of the welfare of the next generation, not just girls but sports personnel.’

“The main aim or objective of the policy is to safeguard management, athletes and other stakeholders including trainers and administrators and executive management,” the WASBO vice chairperson explained.

She went on to add that the policy also sought to provide guidelines on how to report GBV incidents.

Dr Trivedi said given the culture of silence surrounding the issue, the policies would put in place procedures to report even for those who are not willing to openly report such incidents.

To ensure people come out, the WASBO vice chairperson said there will be some confidentiality, whereby whatever is discussed will be kept secret.

On the issue of corrective measures, Dr Trivedi said there will be sanctions for those violating the policies.

“If one continues to violate policies, even after warnings, that person may end up losing their sport career,” the WASBO vice chairperson explained.

She added that the sanctions given to offending individuals will vary depending on the severity of the offense.

Commenting on the issue, acting Botswana National Olympic Committee (BNOC) chief executive officer (CEO) Wedu Motswetla called for extensive education on the issue.

She said the messages should be tailor made for the varied groups within sport. She said across the groups, there are both victims and perpetrators, thus a need for group specific educational messages.

Motswetla added that whereas the sexual harassment policy is a start, there is a need for an overarching ‘safeguarding policy’ that will look at all issues afflicting sport, it be GBV, gambling or drug abuse.

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