Victims of domestic violence who have been praying for a law to protect them will be disappointed following a decision to edit out the anticipated Marital Rape Act out of the SADC Gender and Development protocol signed by member states at the recent summit in South Africa.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC)’s Gender and Protocol alignment was this week preparing to come together and draft a plan of action to prod the Botswana Government to sign the approved gender and development protocol.
However, contrary to recent reports in The Sunday Standard, the Marital Act and seven other major issues were edited out of the protocol in order to appease SADC heads of states who were against it.
As a result, the Gender and Development protocol was finally signed at this year’s SADC summit without some of the key issues that were in the original draft.
In last week’s edition the Sunday Standard reported that in future, men who abused their wives sexually might find themselves in trouble with the law as the SADC heads of states were nearly reaching a decision to approve the Marital Rape Act.
It has, however, emerged that the Act was edited out of the protocol to ensure safe passage of the protocol.
Elsie Alexander, regional head of the Gender and Protocol Alliance, explained this week that “marital rape was no longer an issue of concern amongst those signing the protocol as it was one of the areas that made them uncomfortable with signing the protocol in the first place”.
Alexander says it is going to take patience and limitless effort to criminalise marital rape because regional leaders are uncomfortable with the provision citing cultural clashes.
Ten out of 14 heads of state signed the protocol. Botswana boycotted the summit because they were unhappy that Zimbabwe’s president Mugabe had been allowed to attend.
Alexander says that the signing of the protocol was a major achievement for women and that the deletion of the Marital Rape Act shouldn’t discourage them from fighting for their rights.