The Lesbians, Gays & Bisexual of Botswana (LEGABIBO) chief executive officer (CEO), Anna Mmolai–Chalmers has reacted sharply to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s address on Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
The President recently addressed the nation on issues relating to GVB and revealed among others that a sexual offender registry bill is on the cards to punish those who commit such offences.
In a strongly worded letter addressed to Masisi, Mmolai-Chalmers wrote: “I am writing this note to let you know that I struggled to listen to your address on GBV, and I am still traumatized by the usual rhetoric in your speech, a speech that is your effort to break the silence and show urgency on the rape and violence against women epidemic.”
She accused the President of what she termed intentional silence.
“Your Excellency, in breaking your silence, I note with shock that you are silent on the sexual violence and rape accusations in your parliament. Even when you list perpetrators of violence, you deliberately left out politicians, leaders and MPs,” said Mmolai-Chalmers.
This, she said, is not coincidental, adding that it is a deliberate and systematic way of turning a blind eye on rape incidences that happen right at your work space.
Accusing the President of being complicit, she said Masisi is dismissing the actions of his fellow men and especially fellow politicians as rumours, private, internal party matters, and really not a public issue and a matter of national importance.
“Apparently in your view two wrongs make a right. In the middle of an epidemic where daily reports of women and girls being raped is close to 10, your Excellency breaks the silence with Equality in rape and sexual violence. Is violence against men to the extent that women and girls are raped? Is violence against men as frequent as violence against women and girls,” said Mmolai Chalmers.
On the naming and shaming, she said when women and girls report rape, they are naming and shaming? “Do you realise what you just did? You just blocked the law before it even saw the light of day? The leadership that is already protected and defended against their rapey actions will make sure the law is watered down and have no actual penalties to address this scourge,” said Mmolai-Charlmers.
She noted that in his speech, Masisi not once did he state that ‘men rape women’?
“You instead say ‘those of us’. How can you commit to naming and shaming if you cannot, and would not, in your public address say it like it is, MEN RAPE WOMEN AND GIRLS? How can women have confidence that you will walk the talk?” she said.
The human right activist said Masisi had made the same promises in his maiden address commemorating 16 days.
“I know, it is easy to mistake these as real actions against the epidemic that’s VAW, but your Excellency, saying that we should all join efforts to fight VAw and girls is merely justification to maintain the status quo – doing nothing. These commonly recited mores are just talk, not actions,” she said.
She said Masisi’s speech excuses and hides the harm that the country’s patriarchal society has done to women and girls.
“’Our fore fathers did not rape, men protect women, uncles protect families.’ Imagine the impact that your words had on a young girl who has just been raped by a brother and uncle. She is listening to the President saying the very same people who violated her are protecting her, the shame, guilt and blame she experiences at the thought of reporting rape,” she said.
She added: “My dear president, in your address, you offered women nothing. You please men by not mentioning them as perpetrators, you maintained the status quo, you managed to stop the law before it even started, you cemented complacency and you defended rapists in high positions.”