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Stop The Violence Against Women

Iqbal Ebrahim

This past week marked the end of ‘sixteen days of activism on violence against women’. The question that arises is this, now that the 16 days are over will some people think that life is back to ‘normal’ and they can return to their usual violent ways and attitudes towards women?

Every one of us regardless of our religious, cultural, political and ethnic background must express our disgust and concern that women be they our mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, friends, neighbours and others have to suffer violence and abuse mostly at the hands of some of our male counterparts.

Our religious teachings, beliefs and upbringing tell us to treat women with kindness and love: ‘Among His signs is that He created for you mates from among yourselves that you may live in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts. Surely there are signs in this for those who reflect’. (Quran 30: 21) and the Bible echoes a similar message, "God created man in his own image … male and female created he them" (Gen. 1:27).

Regrettably this violence extends to even innocent children who are no longer safe from it. Physical violence against women and children seems to have spiralled out of control and has reached alarming and unacceptable proportions so much so that it has become a serious social problem. Pick up any newspaper and you will read about how the rights of women are being violated when they are beaten up, raped or even killed up by their spouses, live-in partners, boyfriends and some deviant elements of society. Latest figures show that 59 women were murdered in the last 12 months.

“Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except by way of justice and law” (Qur’an 6: 151). Whosoever kills any human being (without any valid reason) unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief on earth, it is though he had killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life it is though as he had saved the lives of all mankind” (Qur’an 5: 32).

This violence has spread to every strata of society and is not limited to certain races, religions, cultures, urban or rural areas or even our status in life.  There are various types of violence; mental, emotional, psychological, verbal, physical, and increasingly that of rape. Frighteningly age is no longer a barrier, it is common to hear that children as young as four years and even grandmothers in their 70’s are being abused and even raped.

Rape is one of the most heinous crimes that can be committed against a woman, it is soul destroying, it carries with it deep emotional and psychological scars that will never heal. We have never been a violent society, so where do we learn type of violence? We have to urgently identify the root causes of these vile acts and take drastic steps to eradicate this scourge in order to protect the vulnerable in our society.

Therefore as society we should agitate and push for heavier penalties for these perpetrators. These men who use this type of violence against women should suffer very heavy consequences.

In some parts of the world these rapists have to undergo compulsory chemical castration; unlike the type of castration that we know farmers carry out on their livestock, this one for humans is based on injecting medication into perpetrators of such acts. This medication ensures that it kills any desire in that person. In a very ‘diplomatic’ speak let me just put it this way, that even Viagra and other such medications will not help such a person – let’s just say it kills his ‘passion’. This is the very least that these sub-humans deserve.     

There are many marital homes in which violence takes place behind closed doors as it were without the world knowing. In some of our societies because of cultural, traditional and other man-made barriers spousal abuse has been relegated to the side-lines, almost a topic for non-discussion. We have relegated the abuse of women to a private ‘domestic’ affair and some even hide behind the cloth of cultural, traditional or societal norms, lame excuses such these have no place in any sane society.

 ‘And they (women) have rights similar to those of men over them, according to what is equitable’ (Quran 2:228). And: “O Mankind! We have created you from a (pair) of male and female and made you into communities /nations and tribes, that you may know each other (not that ye may despise each other).  Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah Almighty is the most God-conscious (righteous) of you.” (Quran 49:13)
In Islam we have to accord woman with the highest honour and dignity, and it requires us that she be treated with respect; as the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: "the Believers who show the most perfect Faith are those who have the best behaviour, and the best of you are those who are the best to their wives."

A husband is required to treat his wife with the utmost kindness and respect: ‘The Believers, men and women are protectors, one of the other; they enjoin what is just and forbid what is evil’ (Qur’an 9: 71). And: ‘…. (O Believers!) Live with them (i.e., the wives) on a footing of kindness and equity’ (Qur’an 4: 19). Despite these injunctions we still hear of spousal abuse taking place and sadly some Muslim homes are not spared from this evil.  

Today, regrettably there are many homes in which there are ‘live-in’ partners where in the couple live in religious terms, a ‘life of sin’, a opposed to  the traditional married life, without going through the religious or even legal marriage route. While this may be seen as the modern thing to do, it can negatively affect the woman’s vulnerability because it may mean she has less contact with those close to her and the result is that she may lack the support and back up of her family and friends. Without the customary, traditional and religious beliefs and practices, one wonders if the sense of security, commitment and belonging that a normal traditional marriage offers can be maintained in such an arrangement.   

Going forward what we need to do is to ensure that the punishment for this crime must be so strict that the perpetrators will not only think twice but must also face and suffer the consequences of their dastardly deeds.

Otherwise what legacy and lessons are we leaving for and to our youth when they see such evils being perpetrated against women on a daily basis. Men need to stand up and be counted – after all the vast majority of the violence and rapes are perpetrated by men, therefore we should not only be standing shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with women but we should be leading the fight against these vile and evil practices.  

It is important that the nation comes together to discuss this very pressing issue of the abuse of women in all its forms, people  must get the message that society will never allow women to be denigrated in this manner.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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