- Fathers, brothers, cousins and stepfathers are leading perpetrators of child defilement and molestation
- 4786 child births recorded in 2019 alone – Statistics Botswana
- 743 children raped in 2021 alone – Police
- 51 births per 1000 are by girls aged 15 and 19 years – UNICEF
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has recorded a progressively increasing number of defilement cases of girls aged between 15 and 19 years old since 2019, a roundtable of BPS, UNICEF, and Botswana Editors Forum heard this week in Gaborone.
A presentation by BPS on a Violence Against Children Survey (VACS) showed that in 2019 alone, 1 208 cases of child rape were recorded, 1 825 in 2020, and 2003 cases in 2021 alone.
From UNICEF, the roundtable heard that 51 births in 1 000 are by girls aged between 15 and 19 years and that the trend continues to rise.
Tutume child mothers
The UNICEF report, in 2019 the district with the highest births by mothers aged between 10 and 19 years in Botswana was Central Tutume with 659 followed by Kweneng East with 607. Central Serowe came third with 596 births while Central Mahalapye was fourth with 426.
Presenting the VACS situation at a roundtable, BPS Child Protection Specialist, Gomolemo Rasesigo, noted that young girls who experienced incidents of child molestation and rape did so mostly from close relatives such as biological parents, brothers, cousins, stepfathers.
However, inspite of the rising numbers of registered defilement cases, Rasesigo said the rate of reporting such cases is low because victims are deterred by fear of retribution by perpetrators.
Fear of perpetrators
“Perpetrators will come to know who reported, so witnesses fear what may happen to them,” Rasesigo said.
According to Rasesigo, other reasons advanced for not reporting defilement include victims fearing that the perpetrator may lose their job and be unable to provide for
their family and their character will be attacked for causing discord in the community.
Many participants in the survey believed that briberyand corruption result in cases being managed behindclosed doors, “and it ends there,” Rasesigo added.
The UNICEF Child Protection Specialist noted that these cases lead to either teenage pregnancy, victims dropping out of school, contacting HIV or death due to complications during birth.
Titled End Violence Against Children, the UNICEF report also highlighted that the rape of young boys is also on the rise in Botswana.
Gender and Child Protection Unit
Members of the Editors Forum applauded Botswana Police Service for introducing a new Gender and Child Protection Branch, which is headed by Cornelius Segolodi.
The new branch of BPS will train police officers to investigate and handle issues of child abuse in their full extent. The Secretary General of the Editors Forum, Emang Bokhutlo, allayed fears that the lackadaisical approach to such issues in the media may continue and urged the judiciary to become more responsive as well.
“The judicial system also needs to be educated in these matters because in our reporting we often observe that some judicial officers are out of depth, especially where culture and social ethos are involved,” she said.
The Editor of Tswana Times, Sello Motseta, expressed concern that the statistics just presented point to a national crisis that requires decisive action by all stakeholders.
Incidentally, the First Lady Neo Masisi is the champion of the “E Seng Mo Ngwaneng” national campaign against sexual exploitation and abuse of children.