CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE AND RAPE IN BOTSWANA- A GROWING CONCERN

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law, and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) has noted with concern, the growing number of incidences of child sexual assault and rape in Botswana. On the 19th February 2024, a rape incident occurred in Mochudi and was reported to the Mochudi police station on the 20th February 2024. A case was opened by the Mochudi police station and the accused was arrested, and later released after a period of 48 hours. The case was reported to BONELA on the 23rd February 2024 for legal assistance and intervention.

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines child sexual abuse or CSA as “The involvement of a child or an adolescent in sexual activity that he or she does not fully comprehend and is unable to give informed consent to, or for which the child or adolescent is not developmentally prepared and cannot give consent, or that violates the laws or social taboos of society”. Nationally, the penal code of Botswana defines sexual abuse as “sexual conduct that abuses, humiliates, degrades or violates the sexual integrity” while rape is defined as an act of unlawful carnal knowledge, resulting in the sexual penetration of an organ or instrument, into the person of another, for sexual gratification and without their consent.

Globally, and in the context of multiple challenges, the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, climate change, disasters and the lack of adequate action or measures to address these challenges – the root causes such as rising inequalities, poverty and structural discrimination continue to worsen situations that expose children to exploitation, abuse and violence. Children that fall victim of, or survive child sexual abuse and rape, are left with lifelong, negative impacts on their physical, mental and sexual health and development – scars that without the proper psychological intervention could remain with them for years to come.

The sexual abuse, exploitation and rape of children is not only a human rights violation, it also negatively impacts public and global health and development. The fundamental rights and freedoms of the individual are enshrined in the Constitution of Botswana which recognizes the life, liberty, security of the person and the protection of the law under section 3 of Chapter 2. Section 25 of the Children’s Act extends further protections to children by affirming the right of children to be protected against sexual abuse, exploitation, prostitution and pornography. However, according to an article published by Mmegi and dated 20 October 2023, cases of child sexual abuse have been on the rise with as many as 1 825 cases reported in 2020, 2 033 in 2021 and 2 059 in 2022.

According to the United Nations, girl children are at a greater risk of experiencing online and offline acts of forced sex, sexual exploitation, abuse and violence warranting stronger legislative measures towards the protection of and criminal procedures against the perpetrators of sexual crimes against children.

In Botswana and according to section 142 of the penal code, a person who is charged with rape is not entitled to bail and upon conviction, will be sentenced to a minimum of 10 or 15 years, depending on whether the rape was violent and resulted in injury to the victim or survivor, and a maximum of life imprisonment. Having received reports of the release of the accused person involved in the 19 February 2024 rape incident which occurred in Mochudi, BONELA approached the Mochudi police station demanding that the accused be re-arrested. The accused was arrested and appeared before the Mochudi Magistrates Court on the 26th February 2024 with a plea date set for the 12th March 2024. Despite legislative and other protections against the sexual abuse of children, there is a failure in the system of reporting and administration of child sexual assault cases as experienced by families of victims and survivors. In terms of section 43 of the Children’s Act of Botswana outlining the procedure for case reporting in instances where a child needs protection, the police and social workers are highlighted as the first port of call. However, BONELA has noted with concern instances where the police have released a person accused of rape despite legal prohibitions against the granting of bail, failure of social workers to support families through reporting with police stations and to members of the police questioning the validity of reported cases. The current rape incident which occurred in Mochudi on the 19th February 2024 is a case in point.

BONELA remains committed to ending child sexual abuse and rape calling on government, stakeholders and partners, to come together towards a multi-sectorial and integrated approach to addressing issues of child sexual assault and rape in Botswana. The rights of the child are paramount and protected in both national and international law. BONELA calls on families experiencing difficulties with the reporting and administration of cases of child sexual abuse to contact our offices for support. All queries are to be reported to the BONELAs legal officer on the following contact details:

Leungo Kgwaneng (LLB, UB)
Legal Officer
CELL: +267-71340800 
EMAIL: leungo@bonela.org