ELEVATING THE VOICES OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION SURVIVORS
- The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence, held under the theme “Orange the world: End violence against women now’! The campaign runs until 10 December on Human Rights Day.
- Botswana has customized the global theme to reflect the situation in the country in recognition of the consequences of COVID 19 in families and communities. The local theme therefore is “UNite to End Gender Based Violence Now”.
- This 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 based violence.
- The 2018 Botswana National Relationship Study revealed that thirty-seven (37%) percent of women and twenty-one (21%) percent of men reported experiencing some form of Gender Based Violence (GBV) be it emotional, physical and sexual at least once in their lifetime. The most common form of GBV experienced is emotional intimate partner violence at thirty-one (31%) women and seven (7%) for men. 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. Ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that these statistics show that we are in a state of emergency. Gender based violence is rampant in Botswana, primarily on women and young girls. This became even more apparent during COVID 19 pandemic.
- Access to health services for all is meaningless without understanding that a culture of violence, stigma and discrimination on the basis of gender acts as a barrier: it denies women and girls their rightful place within the community and blocks them from lifesaving care. Our goal of reaching epidemic control and Ending AIDS by 2030 is likely to remain nothing but a dream if we fail to do more to end gender based violence.
- Violence is cross cutting and includes physical, emotional, sexual, psychological and economic harm, stripping away basic human dignity. The World Population Review (2020), states that Botswana sits with the second highest rape incidence in the world with 92.90 incidents per 100,000 people. Ladies and gentlemen, you will agree with me that this reality is a cause for concern, as it depicts the reality of women’s rights in Botswana.
- In 2021, through our work on community led monitoring- where we document human rights violations at community level, BONELA registered a total of 81 cases of gender based violence against women, young girls and men. Our data shows that a lot of women are reluctant to report gender based violence because of stigma. Most of them are economically dependent on the perpetrator. We also found that even though majority of men are perpetrators of violence, men also experience gender based violence at the hands of women.
- Gender Equality is a human right and it is a central to BONELAs work. Promotion of gender equality and non-discrimination is a key factor in achieving epidemic control and Ending AIDS By 2030. Universal access to SRHR, realization of reproductive rights, reduction of poverty, prevention of STIs, and achievement of sustainable development goals will largely depend on our ability to achieve gender equality. The importance of gender equality is underscored by its inclusion as one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 5). Gender equality is acknowledged as being a precondition to achieving seven other SDGs.
- Empowerment of women is a key component towards achievement of gender equality. Women are entitled to live with dignity and with freedom from want and from fear. Empowered women contribute to the health and productivity of whole families and communities, and they improve prospects for the next generation. Discrimination against women and girls across societies – including gender-based violence, economic discrimination, reproductive health inequities, and harmful traditional practices – remains the most persistent form of inequality. Despite solid evidence that demonstrate the significance of women’s empowerment to reducing poverty, promoting development and addressing the world’s most urgent challenges, gender equality remains an unfulfilled promise. Therefore, there is great need to ensure that the principles of human rights are upheld to protect, promote and fulfil the right to equality.
- Every year, globally, it is estimated that at least 15 million girls under the age of 18 are given off for marriage. In Sub Saharan Africa, 40% of young girls marry before they reach the age of 18.
- Unfortunately, Botswana is no exception when it comes to the issue of child marriages. Because many of these child marriages happen in secrecy, many of them remain unreported and undocumented.
- 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.
- 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.
- We 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 BONELA, we strongly believe 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 to 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.
- BONELA is conducting this campaign in collaboration with survivors of harmful gender norms as well gender based violence who will share with you, their experiences, with gender inequality, harmful gender norms such as child marriage as well as gender based violence. We celebrate their leadership and courage, and we urge them to continue being champions of human rights.
- #Hear_Me_Now #My_Rights_Matter: We must elevate the voices of affected communities.
Contact Person/phone number/e-mail:
Ms. Cindy Kelemi
Telephone: 3932516/ 72385054
Maun, Boteti, Tutume, Francistown, Palapye and Gaborone