“Domestic violence in any relationship always has an impact on the public because those affected consequently find it difficult to look after themselves,” said Christine Stegling, Director, Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV?AIDS.
To make matters worse, the ready acceptance of certain cultural stereotypes by those who are victimized, especially women, ensures that their subjugation is viewed as normal.
Speaking at a training workshop her Organization held for Botswana Magistrates at the Big Five in Gaborone recently to raise their awareness on the Domestic Violence Act, Stegling pointed out that since those in abusive relationships for the most part seem to tend the notion that they are culturally obligated or expected to serve their partners’ cravings regardless of their own emotional state, they always end up giving in when pressured to have sex in order to avoid withdrawal of resources, which is often used to threaten them.
That is especially true when considering that women are, for the most part, economically dependent on their spouses, or partners.
In this context, Stegling indicated that unless Government finds it their duty to protect women from abuse by legislating against marital rape, of which she stated that the present Domestic Violence Act does not clearly pinpoint, efforts aimed at combating the spread of HIV and AIDS will be reduced to nothing.
For example, there is a provision in the present DVA stating that the victim of domestic violence shall be removed from the scene of abuse, but it does not say where they will be taken.
As a result of this anomaly, Government does not see herself bound to find Women’s shelter, thus, “we have instances where victims end up either sleeping in unsafe corridors, bus stations or seeking accommodation from ‘wrong places’ because of shortage of shelter, which by far is sole concern of the NGOs, according to one female Magistrate who contributed in the discussions.
Lisa Vetten, an expert on matters of litigation on issues of domestic violence at Tshwaragano Legal Advocacy Center of South Africa, said that as a result of combined efforts by her Organization and others, the South African Parliament has adopted an oversight role of ensuring that every six months the relevant ministry dealing with women abuse and domestic violence reports to the house, and cases and measures taken to address the problem.
“Thus we at BONELA believe that much of what is being preached about behavior change to stop HIV infections needs to be seen within the socio-cultural, economic and cultural context,” hyped BONELA Director.
Politics will is also one of the issues that come into perspective, when dealing with the need to recognize the implications of this on public health outcomes, which is generally expected to manifest in policy making.
Chief Magistrate Mmopa Baakile from the Administration of Justice in Maun concurred with Stegling in his contribution.
He posited that marital rape is a contentious issue, whose seriousness has already been appreciated by other countries in the region, such as Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. To show this, they have incorporated it in their own legislation.
Baakile highlighted that where the law recognizes rape in the context of marriage, and criminalizes, it becomes feasible to effectively discipline the culprits.
However, he cautioned that for as long as women choose to take the backseat on issues that affect them, “It would be unrealistic to expect that the courts alone could reverse the ever-increasing statistics.”
BONELA was commended for their efforts in enlightening the legal gurus, and encouraged to widen their net to cater for other equally important stakeholders such as the Police and Court clerks, with a view to creating a victim friendly reporting system.