Some of them were lucky enough to live to tell their ordeal. Some were however not so lucky, but if it is any consolation, their loved ones have remained to share their stories on their behalf. “I am HIV positive and he is also HIV positive. He does not want to use condoms, yet he has many girlfriends. He currently stays with another woman. Whenever she meets my son she enquires if her ‘husband’ slept over at my place,” says one Maritha Ngwenya. She says all the abuse has emotionally affected her son, causing him to drop out of school.┬áDespite helping to build the house that her ex-boyfriend lives in with another woman, she still stays in a shack with no water, and no toilet. “I do not have a boyfriend and I have a knee problem because a few years ago, my ex kicked me. I always pray that …he will go away forever so that I will get a man of my dreams.”Ntsanyana Peba*, 31, met her partner in 1999 and moved in together with him and it wasn’t long before he started beating her up.
┬á“I was working for white farmers and each time I came home from work he would ask me whether I was working or simply having sex with the whites. I would reply that I was working and he would start to punch and kick me,” she narrates. “At the end of the month he would take my whole salary. I never used my money to do anything for myself.” Peba says she was never allowed to talk to anybody, woman or man.
┬áBut like many women in abusive relationships she never told anyone about the beatings because she was “scared” of her partner. After two years she left her partner and went back home. She found herself another partner who would also turn out to be her worst nightmare.┬á He would accuse her of cheating and beat her up.
┬á“This man also abused me sexually. He would never use a condom. If tried to refuse he would be rough with me and have sex with me anyway.” Peba says the man even tried to shoot her after they had broken up and lucky for her, the gun was not loaded.
Lorenzo, 39, from Ghanzi, lost her husband soon after they got married in 2001. Her in-laws won’t allow her to keep her marital property and also want to have full custody of her child.
“My in-laws claim that according to their culture, my marital property cannot be anywhere else except their place or a place of their choice. They also say, as their daughter, I cannot marry for the second time.” Lorenzo says she has decided to start a new life for herself by selling sweets on the streets to make a living.
The three stories are just incepts taken from the stories written by victims of abuse which have been featured in the ‘I, story’ booklet launched by Gender Links Botswana on Monday, 09 December 2013.
Police statistics from the past decade show significant fluctuations in the numbers of passion killings and sexual assaults on women. The figures cannot be interpreted to represent either a decline or increase in such cases. Although records show a consistent increase in cases of passion killings between 2003 and 2005 the number reduced dramatically from 85 to 62 between 2005 and 2006 before surging to an incredible 101 in 2007. The year 2010 recorded the highest rate of passion killings in the past decade at 105 with 2013 having recorded the lowest, 40, by the end of July.┬á The same fluctuations can also be witnessed in ‘indecent assault’ cases with 2012 recording the highest cases at 212 and 2013 having so far (by July) recorded the fewest at 48 cases.┬á
Public Relations Officer at the Botswana Police Service, Christopher Mbulawa, says the best they can do as the law enforcement body is to enforce the law when a crime has been committed. “We cannot interfere in domestic issues unless a crime has been committed. We cannot play social workers. Social problems need social solutions.”
Mbulawa says the society should play their role in combating violence against women and children. He says they have in the past experienced problems where abused women would report such cases of abuse only to withdraw them after the suspect has been arrested. “We have a new policy that prevents such incidents from taking place. Cases can now only be withdrawn in court.”
The 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute sponsored by the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in 1991. Participants chose the dates, November 25, International Day Against Violence Against Women and December 10, International Human Rights Day, in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. This 16-day period also highlights other significant dates including December 1, which is World AIDS Day, and December 6, which marks the Anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.
The 16 Days Campaign has been used as an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and children.