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Women slam Sexual Offenders Register

Sexual Offender

The Women in Politics movement has called into question the impact of the Sexual Offender register. The movement which comprises women from different political parties in Botswana has revealed that it was recently denied permission by the Office.

It expressed disappointment at the Presidency’s decision not to grant permission to march and the present its petition, on the 31st March. Botswana’s Parliament has since passed a motion to create a mandatory sex offenders’ registry and ban sex offenders from working in institutions that deal with children and gender based violence.

In the petition, the movement said while it was aware that there is a Sexual Offenders register, an Inter-Ministerial Committee on GBV and a toll free number assigned for reporting violence, it however does “not see or hear much about these processes, what they are doing, the reports gathered from the processes and most importantly, the impact they are having on the scourge.”

The petitioned signed by one Tshimologo Dingake from the movement’s secretariat added that “We believe the processes and procedure dealing with GBV are not at the level of dealing with a pandemic, as GBV is in our society.”

The petition states that “In our commemoration of the Month of Women, We the Women in Politics would like to raise our concern about Gender Based violence in our country.”
“We are concerned about the killings, the rapes and the violence that we feel have degraded the dignity of the woman and the girl child in our society.”

Women in Politics said gender based violence, according to statistics, is primarily perpetuated in families and between intimate partners, often exposing and endangering children. Citing a survey by the World Population Review, the petition says Botswana is reported as the number one rape country in the world.

“The UN Women states that one in three women reports having been exposed to violence in their lifetime. GBV threatens to tarnish Botswana’s reputation of a peaceful country, but most concerning, the violence endangers the lives and degrades the dignity of women, and children, especially the girl child,” the petition says.

Women in Politics said while it is normally concluded that the main cause of GBV is patriarchy, “we believe that the major driver is inequality, which is caused by a gendered economy.” They added that “A gendered economy leads to economic disempowerment of women, creating dependency on men.”

Citing GBV stories by GenderLinks,(2019), the petition says “clearly show that 2 most of the women victims condoned abuse for long periods of time because they felt they depended on the perpetrators for support.”  It is also clear that an economy, where the face of poverty is a woman, leads to her being vulnerable to abuse, the petition says.

“We note that there is the Domestic Violence Act, which we believe needs to be reviewed to make GBV a criminal offence. The Children’s Act protects children in cases of defilement,” the petition says. The petition further states that “We however believe the Children’s Act needs to be strengthened to improve access to justice” adding that “We are aware that implementation of these acts is also not effective as processing of cases take too long, giving no hope to survivors of violence.”

Women in politics noted that the Penal Code, and observe that in terms of rape it has gaps and needs review to strengthen the justice system. “Serial rapists are allowed bail and they continue their violation of women while awaiting trial. The justice system needs to be proactive to treat cases of GBV as emergency and priority. Stiffer penalties need to be in place,” they said.

Proposing a way forward, they demanded for timely, effective and robust and urgent implementation of related Acts to protect human rights and the rights of Women and girls. “We still repeat our call that:  GBV is a pandemic in Botswana and has taken far too many lives of women and girls. GBV presents a major obstacle to attaining gender equality and equity,” they said.

They also called on government to set up a commission of enquiry on Gender based violence, “to give us insight and evidence as to the reason why our men are so angry at women they have turned into murderers and rapists.” They also called for the review of all laws that discriminate against women, with special focus on customary laws that remain a serious barrier to women’s emancipation.

“In order to improve women’s economic empowerment, we call upon government to unlock economic opportunities for women that include access to productive resources and employment opportunities,” Women in Politics Botswana said.

They also called upon government to change the current electoral system to a mixture of First Past the Post and Proportional Representation system in order to increase women’s representation in decision making structures of the country, especially parliament.

“We want to give input to the process of creating laws, gender sensitive laws. In the meantime, and as a matter of urgency, we call on government to increase its budget contribution to a meaningful amount, in view of the spike in GBV cases, to address GBV as a pandemic it is, so that adequate resources,” they said.

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