As the Christmas festive season is fast approaching, and the country commemorates 16 days of activism against violence against women and children, a glimpse into the adolescent and maternal health status in Botswana’s main tourism centre, Maun utters volumes.
For instance, the town’s hospital statistics indicate that from November 2013 to October 2014 there were 544 cases of abortion out of 1115 patients who were admitted in the Gynaecology ward, which is 48.7%. The hospital has more such cases towards the end of festive seasons and towards the end of winter.
The age group mostly affected according to the statistics is 15-40 years. The hospital spokesperson said reasons for this cannot be objective, but a study needs to be done for proof. From March 2014 to October 2014 he said, they have had 253 cases of teenage pregnancy.
Being a cosmopolitan community, the village has seen a rise in inter racial and intergenerational sex. The bourgeoning of tourist trade in the area saw parents having to stay away from homes, working; thus creating gaps through which teenagers fall prey to unscrupulous adults’ insatiable sexual desires, the Head Counselor at Women Against Rape (WAR), a Non-Governmental Organisation battling Gender Based Violence in the district, Gabalape Tauejele said in an interview.
“Alcohol and substance abuse are, just like in other areas in Botswana, rampant. Parents give their children a lot of money, and some is from moneyed elderly sexual partners. These young people then engage in careless excessive alcohol and illicit drug taking which end with unprotected sex,” he said.
Tauejele said that sexual violence is also on the rise. He said, “Almost every day we receive reports of sexual violence. The sad thing is that it is committed on minors. School going children-even to primary schools are sexually assaulted by adults. Incest is also committed.
Some cultural practices also play a role in this vice. You may find that rape is also rampant but it is under reported, especially when committed by relatives. That is why there is lots of school going children who fall pregnant. It is unfortunate that while family and cultural status are protected, the poor minors’ future is doomed.”
Despite bemoaning the sad situation, Tauejele would not advocate for the legalisation of abortion in the country, saying it would encourage recklessness and further jeopardise women’s health. He however emphasised the importance of victims of violence, including rape, to utilise the current legislation which allows termination of pregnancy in rape victims and minors.
“They should not be afraid but report the incident. We conduct counseling for such victims and ensure they are protected by the law do deal with their unfortunate fate. All in all I can tell you alcohol, substance abuse and gender based violence all add to the spread of HIV,” said Tauejele.
Nevertheless, the Ngami District Health Management Team (DHMT) Public Relations Officer based at Letsholathebe II Memorial hospital, Tumisang Letsholo explained that their hospital has a youth friendly clinic where youth and adolescent access family planning services.
“Since the establishment of the clinic in 2009 we had quite a good number of youth with age range of 14-29 years coming in. And since the relocation of other services to local clinics in April the number has dropped tremendously, only a few are coming. The main reason the youth are utilising the clinic is because they are comfortable being attended to in a youth friendly place with their peers where elderly people do not access services,” said Letsholo.
He said fewer males utilise the clinic as compared to females. Females are mostly utilising it because they are well informed about the clinic, and they have more challenges sexually as compared to males. He added that the youth do have sufficient information and knowledge on their Sexual Reproductive Health as it is part of their school curriculum.However we still have cases of teenage pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections in some youth. They do have cases of abortion though in most cases the causes are not known. He could not be drawn into explaining whether given the prevalence of illegal abortion, he would not advocate for its legalisation.