“Violence against women in its varied forms continues to sky rocket under a culture of silence, denial and apathy, despite increasing recognition of and attention given to gender based violence (GBV),” said Tebatso Menyatso, Acting Director of Women Affairs Department (WAD).
The duty of Government to respect, protect, fulfill and promote human rights with regard to violence against women includes the responsibility to prevent, investigate and prosecute all forms of and protect all women from such violence and to hold perpetrators accountable.
In this context, Menyatso pointed out that Botswana attempts to carry out that duty through the legal and judicial systems on the one hand and through service systems, which provide protection, support, treatment and education on the other hand.
“Surely whatever we are doing is limited, and requires strengthening in the same manner as we should consider rejuvenating our efforts and strategies,” posited WAD chief, adding that the workshop provided such an appropriate platform to that end.
To effectively attain this, it was proposed that stakeholders adopt a broadminded approach and come up with new ways based on known issues that would guide programming though critically unpacking areas of concern reflected on some seemingly common statements often made in relation to the debate on GBV.
Some of the statements cited included, “vulnerability to sexual exploitation is closely linked to economic status”, “gender based violence is wide spread but under reported” and “rape for example and other egregious forms of sexual violence occur in settings when normal family or social structures breakdown or are absent”.
Thus, in Menyatso’s view, the response to GBV must be multi-faceted with separate but interrelated components, to minimize the challenge that Programmers experience in trying to stike a balace while incorporating the variegated components relevant in the general business of achieving a society free from GBV.
Notwithstanding the senior Government’s noble statements gender activists have maintained that Botswana, like Mauritius and other countries, has done a commendable job in terms of laying down the foundations, through promulgation of relevant laws.
Deputy Director of South Africa-based Gender Links, Kubi Rama, took her turn to stimulate the discourse.
She said, “We have done a lot in respect of planning, it’s high time we direct our energies to action now and implementation.”
Apparently, Botswana is not going to budge.
That is, if the different statements made by a number of highly placed Government officials last year in response to the NGOs campaigns for the country’s ratification of the SADC Gender and Development Protocol.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Phandu Sekelemani, a former Attorney General, had said that the protocol made silly proposals, especially with respect to the rights of widows, while President Ian Khama told a BDP Women’s Congress that the language used on the protocol was instructive and therefore not in the taste that makes it attractive for Botswana to sign.
This is despite the fact that the Africa Economic Outlook projects Botswana as an early achiever in efforts to attain gender equality.
According to Rama, the significance of the SADC Protocol lay in that it is the only one that is both categorical and very specific as to what needs to be done and therefore effective holds signatories to account on their declared commitments.
This emerged at a stock taking workshop held at the end of the week in Gaborone, and jointly organized by Gender Links-South Africa and its local chapter which brought together stake holders from different sections of the non-governmental community.