Calls for National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based Violence
The Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) has criticized the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) reluctance to endorse the Umbrella for Democratic Change’s (UDC) motion which sought Parliament to urge President Mokgweetsi Masisi to set up a commission of inquiry into Gender Based Violence (GBV), rape and other sexual offences.
Although the MP for Mahalapye East, Yandani Boko, eventually withdrew the motion after a counter motion by the BDP that instead advised Masisi to set up a ministerial committee to address GBV issues, BONU says a commission of inquiry would have been best suited to address these matters independently.
“Botswana Government, which is struggling to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, has failed to respond to this spillover effect – GBV,” it says in a statement. Heightened rates of GBV during the (lockdown) should not have taken authorities off guard because non-governmental organizations such as UN Women and BONU have advocated loudly for actions to address this shadow pandemic.
“As a female dominated profession, BONU is concerned by lack of commitment and seriousness displayed by some legislators when deliberating on the ongoing motion to urge His Excellency the President to set up a commission of inquiry on GBV, rape and other sexual offences, as a matter of urgency, in terms of the Commissions of Inquiry Act Cap 05:02.”
The BONU statement also reminds Parliament that “this is an urgent matter and should be given the serious attention it deserves. The union’s Gender Office advises the government to improve quality and access to services such as healthcare, including post-rape care, emergency contraception and abortion where legal, immediate and effective police responses, psychological support and counseling, legal advice and protection orders, shelter, telephone hotlines, and social assistance.”
The statement continues: “We also encourage the government to run training for all persons working in Parliament on GBV so that they can have proper debate and interventions. We call upon the Botswana Police Service to put in place a complaints and investigation mechanism which is confidential, fair and responsive to victims’ concerns. Government and Parliament should draw attention to the situation of rural women who disproportionately bear the brunt of poverty, lack of knowledge and resources. Botswana Parliament has to do much more to end these horrible abuses that allow human rights violations to continue.”
The statement says BONU intends to join forces with other civil society organizations for forming a National Strategic Plan on Gender Based Violence and demanding a fully-funded, evidence-based, multi-sectoral, inclusive and comprehensive GBV programme. “Should this pattern continue, there will be larger consequences for women and girls, beyond exposure to the Covid-19 virus,” the statement warns.