“A young girl aged 12 offered in marriage to an octogenarian polygamist who already has 10 wives!”
A local newspaper carried that story. And hair-raising stories of this nature feature prominently in the news. Some prophets of doom have attributed this phenomenon to some of the signs of the times. I certainly beg to differ. You were also told that this development is caused by unfriendly economic times bedevilling our society but I say unto you: The problem, as I see it, is mostly gender related. This article is in two phases: Today it will capture the definition, manifestation and implications of gender on the rights of the girl child and in the oncoming epistle venture into the way forward.
What is gender? According to both common nonsense and everyday English parlance, the term gender means sex. Admittedly, the two terms are synonyms but can hardly be employed interchangeably. Could they? A big “NO’ indeed. The term sex, on one hand, is a concept that is biologically determined and deals with whether one is either male or female and that determination can be perceived with the naked eye.
For example, if we doubt someone’s sex we can easily ask him to strip nude naked and invade his private sphere.Gender, on the other hand, is a social construct .It is sociologically determined andor comes from socialisation. In line with this reasoning ,the American psychoanalyst ,Robert Stoller, as cited in Sociology in Perspective by Mark Kirby et al, distinguishes sex and gender, and rightly so ,in the following manner:
——–the anatomical features which mark out men and women might be labelled as ‘sex’ while ‘gender’ is culturally constructed’ (1997:161).
Sociologically speaking, socialisation is a process by which the norms and values of the society are inculcated into one from birth to death. It is the politics of the sexes or what we associate the sexes with. Here we are talking about masculinity and femininity. Also included in the universal set are concepts matriarchy and patriarchy, the latter of which encourages the subordination of women and the attendant glorification of macho societies.
If I were to pose and ask you right now about what God‘s sex really is, the most spontaneous response, and ironically from women themselves, for that matter, will surely be that He is male. That response is quite understandable because it is how we have been socialised. Women are expected to be emotional while men must be rational.
Men must also be stoical and indifferent to pain. I am sure those so much into literature would remember the tragic hero, okonkwo, in Chinua Achebe‘s “Things Fall Apart” and he is a summarised version of a classic description of manhood. The problem, as I see it, is deeply rooted in our culture and, sadly, our culture is male dominated. It is deeply rooted in patriarchy.
Since the earliest of the times women have been portrayed as sex toys or objects of male sexual gratification. I am sure those who have witnessed them dance in a sexually suggestive manner would understand what this writer means here. The dancing style speaks volumes and seems to be confirming or lending credibility to such claims and stereotypes. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that when parents buy a toy for the girl child it is almost always a doll while the boy child gets a toy gun or model car.
Parents are thus re-enforcing the view that getting married and procreating children is the ultimate good in life for the girl child. The afore described is the ascribed role forof women and there is virtually nothing more pleasing to a woman than the mere prospects of getting married.
From a tender age the girl child is taught how to please her prospective spouse in bed and this ‘apprenticeship’ is attained through various initiation ceremonies .Against that background ,the girl child has been rushing to get married at a very tender age and at the slightest given opportunity in order to put the newly acquired theory into practice.
When in times of financial crises such as the ones obtaining in Zimbabwe at the moment, parents are always ready and raring to have the girl child pull out of school in favour of the boy child who, it is erroneously believed, is the only one who can maintain the family name. Perhaps, to borrow Chinua Achebe‘s philosophy, in” Things Fall Apart”, the boy child can best be enlikened to; One of “— the young suckers that will grow when the old banana tree dies”
An idle mind, they say, is the devil’s workshop. Those girls idling around, and out of school, would want to seek solace in marriage. In some extreme cases the girl child is offered in marriage to a well-to –do man by her poverty stricken parents in exchange for money, the root cause of all evils. Which is precisely why in a sense some people link this problem to economic ills besetting the society .Again this writer does not totally subscribe to this amateurish reasoning because if it were so this problem should then affect both the girl and the boy child and not just one sex being at the receiving end.
Some primitive communities still practice that ritual of giving away a virgin girl child to a murdered person‘s relatives as part of payment to appease the angry spirits. As a result, the unfortunate girl gets married to the deceased person‘s relatives even if she does not approve of the marriage, let alone, love the man concerned at all.
For fear of opening up the proverbial Pandora’s Box, I would not venture into certain religious sects’ practices of arranged marriages between extremely young girls and very old church members under the guise that such marriages would have obtained God’s seal of approval. All this is a gross violation of the girl child‘s fundamental right to freedom of association.
Needless to say, the macho society encourages men to feed on a diet of sexual aggression, that is rape, as a way of subordinating women and, unfortunately, these women also include the girl child. Instead of having the culprits prosecuted for this act of criminality, the girl‘s parents would rather have the perpetrator marry the young girl victim.
Perpetrators of rape on the young girls include those HIV positive who erroneously believe that being intimate with young people would help cure their ailment and also misinformed business tycoons who have an uncanny propensity of directing their sexual venom into the girl child out of the mistaken belief that such a sexual encounter would boost the latter‘s business fortune.
Lest you forget -a typical macho man believes that deflowering and marrying young virgins would surely boost his ego and to him it is part and parcel of trophy collection! And what are the implications of this tendency onto the girl child?:
Apart from exposure to HIVAIDS, the girl child is being thrust into the world of adulthood earlier than was the case in the yesteryears. Without the much needed education, a catalyst for the acquisition of economic resources, the empowerment of women, a concept that has gained popular usage in recent years, will always remain unrealistic, if not romantic.
Furthermore, the girl‘s mind is still naive and therefore exploitable given that she has not been exposed to the vulgar aspects of life. That makes her ill-equipped to deal with life‘s challenges as a wife and parent, for that matter, while her so-called husband does have an inexhaustible wealth of experience in that regard. Coupled with these misfortunes, the girl child cannot realize her immense potential, not even an iota, and the nation at large cannot derive maximum benefit out of that potential.
The sad reality is that our legislation hardly makes considerable strides in righting the current wrong in which women, in general, and the girl child ,in particular, are treated ,at best ,as playing second fiddle to their boy counterparts ,and , at worst, as if outside the bounds of normal society.
This flaw is understandable given that legislation ,just like customary law and the Roman-Dutch Common law, reflects the interests of males: customary law is a product of the historical development of the so-called culture which ,as already alluded to, is largely patriarchal in nature. All Roman-Dutch scholars were either male or were influenced by patriarchy.
Across the globe there are just a few islands of female legislators in a vast sea of male ones. You need to know that before a law comes into existence it starts off as a Bill and, of course, in order for it to pass a litmus test it must have been subjected to rigorous voting. In their sane minds men would never vote for a Bill that is potentially prejudicial to their own interests but, instead, one that tends to marginalise women.
The bible, also, cannot go un-accused in this regard because all the 5 books of the Old Testament were written by a man, Moses, who was motivated by the desire to elevate both patriarchy and the Abrahamic tradition. Those who wrote after him, though there are some slight variations here and there with the Mosaic ideas, were simply freshening his ideological skeleton.
In conclusion, the reader must have noted that the problems affecting the girl child are neither natural nor God-given but result from socialisation in which patriarchy plays centre-stage .In as much the same way they can be changed through the same tool, socialisation. See you next week.
Kungwengwe Star Charles Is a law lecturer at Gaborone University Of Law In Botswana and a self-styled gender activist.
British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”
The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.
As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.
We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.
Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.
Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values. This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.
Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.
Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.
Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.
We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.
These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.
Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.
The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.
Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.
One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.
When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.
The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.
The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.
As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.
When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.
“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.
Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.
This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.
So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.
Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana
This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world. By launching his brutal assault on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy. But the people of Ukraine are resilient.
They’ve had a democracy for decades, and their bravery is inspiring the world. The United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country. By choosing to pay for a war instead of investing in the needs of Russians, Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be a strategic failure for the Kremlin and ravage the future of the Russian people.
When the history of this era is written, it will show that Putin’s choice to launch an unprovoked, unjust, and premeditated attack left the West more unified and Russia exponentially weaker.
United in Our Response
This will not end well for Vladimir Putin. Together, the United States and our Allies and partners are taking action to hold Russia accountable. As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank.
President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage Russia’s economy, financial system, and access to cutting-edge technology. After Putin began his invasion, the ruble hit its weakest point in history, and the Russian stock market plunged.
Along with the United Kingdom and European Union, the United States imposed sanctions on the architects of this war, including Putin himself.
By moving in close coordination with a powerful coalition of Allies and partners representing more than half of the global economy, we have magnified the impact of our actions to impose maximum costs on Putin and his regime. In response to Putin’s war of choice, we will limit Russia’s ability to do business in U.S. dollars.
We will stunt Russia’s ability to finance and grow its military. We will impair Russia’s ability to compete in the global economy. And we are prepared to do more.
In addition to economic penalties, this week President Biden authorized an additional $1 billion over the $350 million of security assistance he recently approved, and a $650 million in 2021, to immediately help Ukraine defend itself, bringing America’s total security assistance to Ukraine over the past year to $2 billion.
We also stand ready to defend our NATO Allies. President Biden has coordinated with Allied governments to position thousands of additional forces in Germany and Poland as part of our commitment to NATO’s collective defense.
He authorized the deployment of ground and air forces already stationed in Europe to NATO’s eastern and southeastern flanks: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. Our Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense. There should be no doubt about the readiness of the greatest military Alliance in the history of the world: NATO is more united than ever.
The United States has also coordinated with major oil-producing and consuming countries to underscore our common interest in securing global energy supplies. We are working with energy companies to surge their capacity to supply energy to the market, particularly as prices increase.
Putin’s Unprovoked and Premeditated War
This was an attack that Vladimir Putin has planned for a long time. He methodically moved more than 150,000 troops and military equipment to Ukraine’s border. He moved blood supplies into position and built field hospitals, demonstrating his intentions all along.
He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue.
Putin executed his playbook exactly as we had warned he would do. We saw Russia’s proxies increase their shelling in the Donbas. We saw the Russian government launch cyber-operations against Ukraine. We saw staged political theater in Moscow and heard outlandish and baseless claims made about Ukraine in an attempt to justify Russia’s aggression.
Russia continues to justify its military aggression by falsely claiming the need to stop “genocide” in Ukraine – despite there being no evidence that genocide was occurring there. We saw Russia use these tactics before when they invaded Ukraine in 2014 and Georgia in 2008.
And then, at almost the very same moment the United Nations Security Council was meeting to stand up for Ukraine’s sovereignty and forestall disaster, Putin launched his invasion in violation of international law. Missiles began to rain down, striking historic cities across Ukraine. Then came air raids, columns of tanks, and battalions of troops, all riding a renewed wave of disinformation and outright lies.
We have been transparent with the world. We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up. Putin is the aggressor. Putin chose this war. And now his people will bear the consequences of his decision to invest in war rather than in them.
Transatlantic Unity and Resolve Stronger Than Ever
Putin’s goal of dividing the West has failed. In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity. We have united, coordinating intensively to engage as one with Russia and Ukraine, provided assistance to Ukraine, developed a broad response, and reaffirmed our commitment to NATO.
Putin has failed to divide us. Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies. And Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine.
The next few days, weeks, and months will be incredibly difficult for the people of Ukraine. Putin has unleashed great suffering on them. But the Ukrainian people have known 30 years of independence, and they have repeatedly shown they will not tolerate anyone who tries to take their country backwards.
The world is watching this conflict closely, and if Russian forces commit atrocities, we will explore all international mechanisms that could be used to bring those responsible – whether members of the military or their civilian leadership – to account.
Putin’s aggression against Ukraine will cost Russia profoundly, both economically and strategically. The Russian people deserve better from their government than the immense cost to their future that this invasion has precipitated.
Liberty, democracy, and human dignity are forces far more powerful than fear and oppression. In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake: Freedom will prevail.