Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Rape culture now an existential threat to Botswana

Parliament’s botched handling of a motion by Yandani Boko, Member of Parliament for Mahalapye East on Gender Based Violence, says a lot about the maturity of our politicians.

More scaring, however is leadership vacuum at government level to seize on tis motion to provide context and reassurance.

The motion came after Police Commissioner, Keabetswe Makgophe said at least 6 women are raped in Botswana on a daily basis.

This is a horrifying piece of statistic. If this alone cannot get us to accept that we face an existential threat as a society, then it becomes almost impossible to see what will.

Any person of goodwill should not only be shocked but also be ashamed.

There are, no doubt, plenty of questions to address. This easiest would be for government to acknowledge the problem after hearing the police Commissioner.

Diving head on into the issue is tricky for it involves addressing deeply ingrained sociological questions that surround what for Botswana has become a rape culture.

One of these is the dynamics of power. And how males define these power relations – including, tragically in our politics.

It is far from clear just what the government strategy of silence and inaction intends to achieve.

Most likely, it is because there is hope in government that the problems will go away or at best resolve itself. But unfortunately that is not how the real world operates.

All attempts have to be expended, aimed at breaking the chain of male misogyny in our society.

That includes finding ways to liberate young that can still be saved from paternalism and patriarchy that are so much behind the rape culture.

Understanding government role in doing this is key.

There is need for advocacy, starting at Non-Governmental Organisations level.

Women who have been violated, defiled and raped should be empowered to come forward and report their cases.

The current situation, including at police does not facilitate that.

The Police Commissioner said statistics showed that on a daily basis 6 women are raped.

The actual number is possibly much higher, because few women actually ever feel safe enough to come and report.

Many choose to go underground. Police stations need to be made women friendly. That calls for resources, including training more women that would show emotional empathy to rape victim, the majority of who are by far the women and of course the girl child.

We have always known that rape and violence in our homes were big social problems that we needed to resolve.

To his credit, during his time Festus Mogae tried to address these twin evils and actually put resources behind his police pronouncements.

Sadly, the ten years that followed his departure nothing happened on that front, as Mogae was succeeded by a security minded president who spent more time listening and reading security and intelligence briefs.

Gender Based Violence, which by the way includes rape is scarring lives and societies in Botswana. Villages, towns and cities are going down the abyss as a result of this scourge. Victims spend whole lives depressed, living on the brink as result of health issues that include being suicidal.

As it is, rape in our society constitute much more than just a national failure. It is a crisis. And Government, led by the Head of State should respond as such.

No efforts should be spared to save both the country and our families from a culture of rape and also the Gender Based Violence.

Our society is broken. And government needs to demonstrate that it cares. And that it too feels the dislocations in our society.

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The Telegraph September 23

Digital edition of The Telegraph, September 23, 2020.