13 February 2008
Civil Society organizations commend the Parliament of Botswana for passing the Domestic Violence Bill
Gaborone – BONELA and the Kagisano Society Women’s Shelter Project (KWSP) are happy that the Domestic Violence Bill (2007) has been tabled and passed by Parliament.
We would like to commend parliament for passing the said Bill and in particular Honourable Gladys Kokorwe for her tireless efforts in advancing this important matter.
The Domestic Violence Legislation will be an important step for protecting the rights of those most vulnerable and signals Botswana’s commitment to up-holding human rights obligations. By establishing this Legislation, Botswana will be aligning herself with many other countries in the region such as Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mauritius and South Africa.
We trust that his Excellency, The President of Botswana, Festus Mogae, will emulate parliament and sign the Bill into law. While we acknowledge the significance of the impending act we are of the view that certain aspects of profound importance are not included. The Bill as it stands does not materially change the current legal framework addressing violence. To make real and lasting impact we strongly believe that the following issues need to be included in the Botswana Domestic Violence Bill:
- Establishment of Special Police Units on Domestic Violence – It is important that there be special training of police officers to handle domestic violence cases.
- Protocols for police and prosecution services for the handling of domestic violence complaints – Police and prosecution services need detailed instructions on how to respond to domestic violence complaints in accordance with the law. Such protocols should cover domestic violence, rape, sexual assault and assault.
- Provision of shelter and other services for domestic violence survivors – The Bill should make provision for state funding of shelters for survivors of domestic violence, including provision for funding of already existing shelters.
- Marital rape – The Bill is to be commended for its recognition that sexual abuse can occur within a domestic relationship, including marriage. Recognizing that power imbalances exist in many relationships between men and women, it is necessary to protect women from sexual violence in the home. This is particularly important in light of the HIV epidemic in Botswana which reveals considerably higher HIV prevalence amongst women (including married women) than men. A number of countries in the SADC region, for example – Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa – have recently clarified that rape within marriage carries the criminal offence of rape.