Botswana Police and Civil Society associations such as Emang Basadi, the #IwearwhatIwant movement and Men and Boys for Gender Equality among others spoke publicly about rape culture on Friday afternoon at the busy Gaborone bus rank.
This was triggered by an incident during which a young lady was battered, stripped naked and insulted with phrases characteristic of rape culture last Sunday at the same bus rank.
A brave journalist from Gabz FM Lorretta Mekgwe also took the microphone to speak publicly about her 17-year-old tragic rape experience which took place at the city’s bus rank when she was innocently trying to get home after school with the hope of at least touching the nation to hopefully effect change.
Co-Founder of Emang Basadi, Ntombi Setshwaelo, for her part said that it was time for the nation to thoroughly introspect on what it means to be a Motswana.
She said the first president of Botswana, the late Sir Seretse Khama, invested a lot of money towards teaching Batswana that a woman is not an object and that she should be respected.
“Not only did he try to instil in us the value of a woman, he also focused a lot of energy on moulding this society’s men into protectors of women and children. He did this solely because women and children are counted among society’s vulnerable people,” she pointed out.
To the daily commuter, street vendor, taxi driver and anybody else that was at the bus rank that day, what initially seemed to be just loud voices turned out to be something worth hearing to the sceptic.
Speakers assured the nation that the culprits will be caught one by one as the video that was shared on social media by one of the partakers of the despicable act will make it easy for law enforcement to make arrests.
“Those animals are not going to hide for much longer, we are looking for them and we will find them. In the event that they try to skip the country, we have good international relations and law enforcement from the region and beyond who will be more than happy to lend ours a helping hand,” Setshwaelo reassured.
The horrid week-old incident has really shaken Batswana and has been the topic of discussion at many forums this week especially in the capital city.
International Programmes Manager at Sonke Gender Justice, Secretariat to Men Engage Alliance Africa Itumeleng Komanyane said during the Women in Male Dominated Professional Spaces workshop hosted by the Australian High Commission at Masa Square hotel on Thursday that nothing justifies the bus rank incident.
“Just because we are cooperates and can afford to hang out at decent places does not make us any different from the lady that was victimised that day. So many times I have worn hot pants in public but now I realise that I got away with it because of location,” she said. She urged those present at the forum to really dig deep and contribute whatever resources they may have to ensure the safety of women in all spaces regardless of location the world over.
It is the hope of all that participated at the city’s bus rank on Friday that all efforts put towards creating dialogue around rape culture will help bring down the evil to its knees. Although the police have not made any arrests yet, they have reassured the public that with the support they get from civil society and the community nothing is impossible.
“The take home message should be that even though it hasn’t happened to you or your loved one, it is an existing problem which if left unattended will raise the statistics of rape, let’s pull together as a nation and fight rape. It is our problem as a nation, not just a problem of a select few,” Setshwaelo advised.