The existence of sexual violence against Orphaned and Vulnerable Children ( OVC) in Botswana is well known yet it is a largely unacknowledged challenge, research on HIV and orphans in Annals of Global Health, a journal that focuses on global health, states.
According to the journal, sexual violence against children is both pervasive and dire in Botswana and that perpetration usually occurs at homes and schools. “Home was identified as the riskiest places where perpetration occurred with acquaintances and family members as the most likely perpetrators,” it states, adding that schools were identified as both safe and risky, with teachers cited as buffers against perpetrators of sexual violence.
The research points a finger of blame to household dysfunction; where there is absence or insufficient parental care, lack of family cohesion, sociocultural expectations, lack of inadequate support infrastructure and economic limitations like poverty and the victim depending on the perpetrator economically. “ The culture of silence around sexuality and the social expectation that children should be seen and not heard provoke and perpetuate violence,” it stated.
This was corroborated by Human Rights and Child Protection Coordinator at Stepping Stones International Chirwah Mahloko, who said sexual violence on OVC was a big problem faced by the country. “There is a lot that still needs to be done to address this challenge that ranges from our culture to the legal system,” he said, maintaining that there is need for society to open up to children on issues of sex. “Sex talk between children and elders is still regarded as a taboo and it makes it difficult for children to come out of the dark-hole of sexual violation. Once the silence around sex talk is broken, it will also send a message to pedophiles and they will have to think twice before violating children.”
Mahloko explained that sexual violation robs one of their dignity and self-worth, “Any person who has been sexually violated feels they can’t engage and make decisions about their life; they do not have an opinion on anything and feel worthless. For OVC it is even worse because they would be going through one of life’s painful situations of losing a parent(s).”
Meanwhile, Mahloho said there are legal gaps that could otherwise effectively assist in sexual violation against children. Such he said include the establishment of a child court; a child friendly court dealing with prosecution of offences against children. “ Also, the presentation of the guidelines of the Children’s Act are long overdue. People need to know how to handle cases and offences affecting children as they appear in the Act . It is without doubt that the provisions in the Children’s Act are good but without guidelines of implementation it is all confusion of where and what to do when a child is violated. ”
Consequences of sexual violation, according to Mahloko, include psychosocial problems like depression, low self-esteem, social withdrawal, teenage pregnancy, school drop-out, diminished academic performance and propensity for repeat victimization.