- On the1st of December, the world commemorated world Aids day. On this day, nations got to introspect on the status of HIV/AIDS across the world and their input towards ending the HIV/AIDS pandemic. BONELA joined the world in commemorating this special day. This year, we commemorated this day under the theme “END INEQUALITIES. END AIDS. END PANDEMICS”. This year’s theme calls upon government, the civil society, men and women, old and young, faith based sector, traditional leadership, private sector, media and development partners in this country to join forces and stand up in their various spheres and communities and take action against gender disparities that exist in our country that perpetuate Inequalities and the spread of HIV/AIDS.
- Botswana is one of the countries in the world with a high HIV prevalence, Furthermore, statistics show that the HIV/AIDS virus has affected more women than men in Botswana. This variance can be highly attributed to the economic and cultural inequalities which exist in our country. Women in Botswana are not only subjected to poverty but also violence: physical, sexual and emotional from their intimate partners due to harmful cultural practices and norms. In 2018,the Botswana National Relationship Study revealed that the most common form of GBV experienced is emotional intimate partner violence at thirty-one (31%) women and seven (7%) for men. Furthermore, of the women who reported experience of GBV, 92% had experienced some form of abuse in childhood and of those who reported experience of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) 94% were abused in childhood. Gender based violence fuel the spread of HIV/AIDS in the sense that women do not have a say in relationships e.g. sex. When they try to voice out they are beaten and therefore will rather keep quiet about issues bothering them so as to avoid being beaten.
- Another cultural practice that brings about inequalities and perpetuate the spread of HIV/AIDS is that of child marriages. Young girls as young as 10 years are given off to man as old as fifty years for marriage in some particular cultures in Botswana. Child marriages pose a threat to the psychological, social, educational and physical wellbeing of an individual. Through our work, BONELA has discovered that girls who marry young are often denied a range of human rights; many discontinue with their education, they face many risks from early and multiple pregnancies and suffer sexual and domestic violence. Although child marriages are illegal in Botswana, cultural norms and practices continue to perpetuate such illegal marriages. In 2015, The Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV (BONELA) discovered 13 cases of child marriages in Botswana amongst the Bazezuru tribe. In the following years, BONELA recorded a total of 23 cases of child marriages in Francistown, Okavango Boteti and Ngami. Of the 23 recorded, only three (3) were willing to accept help from our office while majority did not want to strain family relations. As a nation, must work together to end child marriages in Botswana. Traditional leaders and victims of child marriages, must be supported to lead the fight against child marriage and other harmful gender norms as this will lead to the reduction of inequalities and gender based violence.
- BONELA, strongly believes that the fight against harmful gender norms and cultural practices such as child marriages, gender inequality, violence against women, children and men, starts in our communities and end in communities.
- We must create an enabling environment by empowering communities to lead this fight in order to ensure the much needed societal transformation. Communities must understand their role in protection, promotion and fulfilment of human rights. Government must facilitate communities to monitor implementation of existing laws which criminalize child marriages. We must intensify efforts to raise awareness about these societal challenges, ensuring that these issues become topical issues of discussion
- Government of Botswana must set frameworks that are aimed at capacitating individuals especially women economically and protecting them from cultural practices that put them at high risks of contracting HIV/AIDS.
For more information, contact BONELA on:
Katlego Sechele at email@example.com or 72282025
Cindy Kelemi at firstname.lastname@example.org or 72385054