Between 2017 and 2019, 559 lives were lost through gender based violence, while 1 029 threat to kill cases were reported to the police, 2 377 young children especially girls were defiled and 6 403 women were raped.
These statistics, which were discussed in parliament this week, do not include cases of 2020, which reportedly went up especially during movement restrictions and lockdown following the outbreak of COVID-19.
Answering questions from Mahalapye east member of Parliament, YANDANI BOKO on Friday, minister of Presidential Affairs, KABO MORWAENG stated that there are five Safe Houses in the country with 46 GBV survivors who have fled their homes at the moment, 24 of them are housed at the Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre in Gaborone; 14 in Francistown and eight at Women Against Rape Shelter in Maun.
FRANCINAH BAAITSE summarized the session below as captured in the Hansard’.
BOKO: The question comes after the motion that was presented before this Parliament by my good self on issues surrounding GBV.
We have debated this issue as a country. It is an issue that has attracted much interest from the citizens of this republic.
We have seen the increasing numbers of people who have died or women who have died at the hands of their husbands or partners.
We have had issues where some women had to leave their houses because of the abuse from those that they are staying with.
You will recall very well that when I came before this Parliament and presented the motion calling for a commission of inquiry, one member of the ruling party decided to amend the said motion. He suggested that instead of the commission of inquiry we should come up with inter-ministerial committee.
You will agree with me that it is a sad day in our country that after they decided not to vote in favour of that motion, and having come up with an alternative, that alternative has not been put in place.
It is a shame if you ask me. I am disappointed that we find ourselves in this state.
However, I have put up seven questions to the Minister of Defence, Justice and Security, I see that he is not here today and I am not surprised.
BOKO: Oh, I hear he is not well. I did not know that, he did not tell me that he is not well.
He ought to have told me because he knew that this question was coming today.
The Vice President, if you can listen. I have seven questions, and I hope that they will be answered sufficiently.
MORWAENG:(PRESENTING THE MINISTER OF DEFENCE’S ANSWER)
Let me from the onset highlight that issues of GBV are not confined to my ministry, that is Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security alone but are a crosscutting matter in which Ministry of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs, Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development as well as non-state actors also have a stake.
Police stations across the country deal with cases of GBV and always strive to protect victims.
GBV reports are attended to in secluded rooms, and victims are treated with respect and empathy.
Botswana Police Service continues to capacitate its personnel to enhance their competencies and professionalism for dealing with GBV cases.
The recently announced decision by the Botswana Police Service to come up with child-friendly police facilities to cater for victims of child abuse indicates that indeed the police service continues to build capacity for dealing with GBV cases.
One of the child-friendly police facilities is about to be completed and open for use as a pilot project at the Broadhurst Police Station.
(ii) The Botswana Police Service Training Curricular has various modules to equip officers on how to deal with different types of crime, including GBV.
Currently, the Botswana Police Service has on going Anti Gender-Based Violence courses targeting Police Post Commanders and other ranks.
It is expected that by December 2020, these training courses would have covered 700 officers who are deployed at police stations throughout the country.
Legislative measures protecting the rights of children who are compelled to be separated from their parents are in place under the primary responsibility of the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development.
The Children’s Act and the Domestic Violence Act create mechanisms for the removal of children from abusive homes and other environments, as well as for prosecution of perpetrators of such abuse.
BOKO: There is a consensus in all the English speaking countries that, one of the effective ways of dealing with this issue of GBV is to ensure that there is an economic empowerment of women.
That countries have to take a deliberate decision to ensure that women are empowered.
You will agree with me from the discussion that we had with different people that some women find themselves trapped in some relationships because economically they are down.
I just wanted to enquire if there is anything in place to ensure that we attend to this issue of a deliberate decision to economically empower women as a country?
MORWAENG: Yes, we must accept that issues of economics cannot be divorced from GBV issues.
Some women are taken advantage of by men because of their poverty state while some stay with criminals or someone who abuses them because they need money. We all know these things happen.
What we are doing as a government as an intervention measure, we have put programmes in place to empower women in particular, and some of the programmes are covered under the ministry of Local Government and Nationality and under Citizen Entrepreneurial Development Agency (CEDA).
We want to empower women to be financially independent because when one is independent, their chances of them being abused is low.
GOBOTSWANG: When there is a national crisis for instance, the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), or COVID, a budget is drawn, where is budget for GBV?
MORWAENG: I don’t understand whether honourable Gobotswang has a hearing problem or he misunderstood me.
We said training of police officers include GBV issues. We are going to have a special unit specifically for GBV, same way we have traffic, stock theft, livestock, diamonds, bagalona ba di drugs (your narcotics) departments, this one will be dealing with matters relating to GBV.
WYNTER MMOLOTSI: Member is imputing improper motives when he points an accusing finger at us when he is talking about drugs. We are not drug dealers.
MORWAENG: I mentioned other departments so I don’t understand why they jump when I talk about drugs. What we are saying is that we are launching GBV unit and on the 10th of this month we are opening a pilot project at Broadhurst.
KENNY KAPINGA: Honourable Minister has a tendency of casting aspersions on this side of the House.
That there is a drug dealer on this side of the House and it does not begin today.
These are serious aspersions to say an Honourable Member of this House deals in drugs.
He must cease and desist from doing that.
SPEAKER: You should not be imputing some improper motives on other people. If you ever said, please can you withdraw the statement.
MORWAENG: What I am saying is that under the Police service we have different units including narcotics, Honourable Kapinga knows it and the unit deals specifically with bakaulengwe bao ba di drugs.
SPEAKER: They insist you said “drug dealers on the other side”. If you said it, please can you withdraw.
MORWAENG: I cannot withdraw what I did not say.
KEORAPETSE: No, honourable Speaker, the request was for you to call the Hansard, secondly call evidence of the video so that we also see his gestures. It is important to see his gestures.
I have seen a whatsApp exchange in Parliament group and we know very well where these aspersions he is casting are coming from.
We are not surprised but I can see you have no intention of calling him to order because this is not the first time he misbehaves with us with baseless accusations.
Mr Speaker, you are in the group, you know where this thing comes from.
SPEAKER: I have politely asked him to withdraw the statement if he ever said that, but he is denying it.
Now to satisfy myself, probably I would have to revisit the Hansard, and then I will make a ruling accordingly.
(Orders Morwaeng to continue with his response.)
MORWAENG: If there is one particular member who was hurt by my statement, may she/he rise so I may apologise?
PONO MOATLHODI: I am worried. I cannot temporarily pick on the particular Standing Order, but the particular Standing Order I am referring to is very clear, it says where you are, you have to pay attention to detail, to what is going on in the house, but in your case whenever there is objection from this side of the house, you take the “I did not hear him” stance.
Correct me clerks if I am wrong, but the job of the speaker is that his ears must be very alert at all times and to be fair in his ruling.
Yes we are not Ministers or Members of the ruling party, but it is not right for us to be insulted and disrespected by Mr Morwaeng and some of the MPs. This must stop.
We need cooperation, respect and coherence in this Parliament. This is the August House.
We cannot have this anymore. Enough is enough, please! Hee batho!