Sunday, March 3, 2024

Women’s rights never truly acquired:┬á Does this hold for Women in Botswana? ┬á

Caution; the intension of this piece reader is not to stir any controversy.

Police reports show that in 2010, attempted abortion in Botswana rose to 53 from 37 in 2009. Concealment of birth, which involves a woman going through a pregnancy and killing the baby after birth rose from 66 in 2009 to 70 in 2010.

Abortion is strictly prohibited in Botswana. It carries stiff penalties, although in 1991 the Penal Code was amended to allow it in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy under special circumstances. That is, if the pregnancy was a result of rape, incest, or defilement, if the woman is mentally deficient, or if the child would be born with a serious physical or mental abnormality. The abortion could only be performed after two medical doctors had approved it, otherwise, under no other circumstances can a pregnancy be terminated in Botswana and any attempt to do so is illegal. The laws of Botswana have made it highly difficult for women to terminate pregnancy.

Abortion has become an ever more controversial issue provoking strong reactions both for and against. Proponents, identifying themselves as pro-choice, contend that choosing abortion is a right that should not be limited by governmental or religious authority, and which outweighs any right claimed for a foetus. They say that pregnant women will resort to unsafe illegal abortions if there is no legal option. Opponents identifying themselves as pro-life, contend that person-hood begins at conception, and therefore abortion is an immoral killing of an innocent human being. They say that it is unfair to allow abortion when couples who cannot biologically conceive are waiting to adopt.

Variations exist in arguments on both sides of the debate. Some pro-choice proponents believe abortion should only be used as a last resort, while others advocate unrestricted access to abortion services under any circumstance. Pro-life positions range from opposing abortion under any circumstance to accepting it in case of rape, incest or when a women’s life is at risk.

Pro-life and critiques of abortion primarily focus their attention on moral, values, principles and ethical ethos. Permit me dear reader to borrow from the works of philosophers and social anthropologists in discussing morality and ethics. Many a time issues of morality, culture, values and norms are brought about of a form of excuse in engaging on issues that are considered sensitive. The church and clergy are very good at throwing this trump, as if they themselves are holier than though. I am a Christian. I do not want to sound overly too judgmental. I am not a saint. I wish to start with the question ‘what is Morality and which things are relative?’

“For her part, one is not born, but rather becomes, woman.” So wrote Simone de Beauvoir in her landmark 1949 book, The Second Sex. De Beauvoir’s statement still remains an important principle for women and health. March 8 marks International Women’s Day – a day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women worldwide. International Women’s Day also signals a moment to reflect not only on what has been achieved, but also what remains to be done. There is, indeed, much more to be done if the goal of gender equity, Sustainable Development Goal 5, is to be won.

The 2017 campaign for International Women’s Day will be based around the theme of “Be Bold for Change”, an invitation to all men and women alike to take strong pragmatic actions to accelerate progress towards gender equity and to deliver the greatest possible positive change for women. A new US president for instance has certainly taken some bold actions. Presidential decrees taken within his first days in office have generated anxiety among women. The question facing many women today is therefore not simply what strategies should be adopted to advance women’s health and to address the determinants of their health, but how to protect the fragile successes that have taken decades to accrue.

The reinstatement of the global gag rule which will limit funding of family planning programmes in developing countries might only be “the opening salvo in what is expected to be a broad based assault on sexual and reproductive health and rights. Looking beyond the global gag rule, they argue that reproductive health and rights in the USA will come under sustained attack. President Trump has vowed to ‘put America first, however, his policies would put the health of women last, they warn. There are certainly grounds for concern. While the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) boosted access to birth control via affordable contraceptive methods, the promised unraveling of President Obama’s initiative will mean that these gains are under threat. Young and poor women are likely to be harmed first. Weakened healthcare insurance, defunding of Planned Parenthood, and abortion restriction would challenge affordability and accessibility to birth control methods, family planning safety nets, and women’s control over their fertility, a sustained assault on women‘s health and wellbeing.

The new Donald Trump’s presidency has been coldly welcomed by many concerned with women’s rights. On Jan 21, a hugely successful Women’s March on Washington took place. Its aim was to send a bold message to the new government on their first day in office and to the world that women’s rights are human rights.  The challenges for women go well beyond the USA. According to the World Economic Forum 2016 Global Gender Gap Report, which quantifies gender disparities and tracks progress on four key areas: health, education, the economy, and politics progress is still too slow for realizing the full potential of one half of humanity within our lifetimes. Progress is also uneven. Of the 142 countries studied, 68 have increased their overall gender gap score compared with the previous year, while 74 have seen it decrease.

In Botswana’ woman issues are just merely taken as business as usual, celebrations of International Women’s day are mainly a showoff, fashion parade where some women appear at such fora dressed like Christmas tree decorations. It also entails rhetorical mere reading of written statements without necessarily advocating for Women rights such as to allow for decriminalization of abortion, commercial sex and decriminalization of sodomy. Clearly we can deny that all these practices are not been done, but in reality it is a day life phenomenon. 

At this time of uncertainty, de Beauvoir’s book remains an inspiring call to action. All those who care for women and their health should take into account their political, economic, or religious crisis for women’s rights to be called into question. And perhaps that would reduce an explosive rate of cross boarder abortion trips to South Africa instigated mainly by men. That may perhaps also reduce explosive rate of Gays and Lesbians that now does not know boundaries whether one is married or not. Where one is husband during the day and a gay at night. Perhaps that may also lead to the reduction of the blesser / blesse syndrome as well sexual orgies that have now become a norm. One is reminded of the sexual cleansing ritual that took place in Pitsane in the year 2014, commonly referred to as “ A re ye Pitsane” on vulnerable un-suspecting girl child as a status symbol predominantly driven by lust, money and power.

Or it may even lead to the reduction of The Ben Ten Syndrome, where there are now many gigolos, bo Rent a Boy where big mama’s get to play with young lads using their status and money or even immoral practices.

*Thabo Lucas Seleke is a Scholar & Researcher in Health Policy, Health Systems Strengthening.


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