BFTU supports UN call for ceasefire in the homes, condemns violence against women
The Botswana Federation of Trade Unions (BFTU) joins governments including Botswana government, civil society and youth as well as opinion builders and the private sector as they lend their voices for the 16 days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV), a world- wide mobilization campaign running from 25th November to 10th December.
In our own midst, it has been reported by the Botswana Police Services and other Global Agencies that Botswana’s rate of rape and gender based violence has reached a point of alarm with the country notoriously marked as a second rape nation.
We thus view the sixteen days of activism as an opportunity for not only to raise alarm but to reiterate our collective determination and commitment as a country and as a people at all levels and globally to set out to restore normalcy and respect for the dignity of others regardless of their sexuality.
It is common knowledge that the declaration of the State of Public Emergency (SOPE) with all the best of intentions has had the effect of imposing an even hard state of emotional disturbance and on occasion locked down the social space and of freedom of many women, girls and gender non-conforming persons and trapped them into the same cauldron with abusers.
Fear and violence continues to dominate the household with the “weaker” sexes subjected to all manner of abuse to the detriment of family peace and cohesion. The limitations of existing public health systems are now more than ever before exposed as a consequence of the escalation in family war especially against women, girls and gender-nonconforming persons.
The adequacy of the legal infrastructure to attend to the demand of the situation is evidently challenged.
Against this background, BFTU would like to commend government for a recent announcement by the Chief Justice of Botswana Justice Terrence Rannowane that with almost immediate effect the court systems shall provide for separate and special and expeditious disposal of cases relating to GBV.
This is a step in the right direction. It tallies very well with the fact that BFTU has made such demands in the past to this effect including in our 2019 workers election Manifesto.
In the same regard we have called for, and we still maintain that there is need for a dedicated unit in the Botswana Police services to ensure that cases related to GBV are handled with the sensitivity they respect and trained personnel who are capable of exuding the rational trust befitting the circumstances of the victims of this wicked crime.
This is confirmed by all the publicised reports that many of the cases could not be registered or reported due to fear of stigmatization and in part due to lack of corresponding levels of awareness in the police and Administration of Justice systems.
To acknowledge the magnitude of the problem UN Women is calling for robust and decisive action in response to this unprecedented crisis on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women in the run up to the 2021 Generation Equality Forum.
Even before COVID-19, violence against women was one of the most widespread violations of human rights, with almost 18 per cent of women and girls experiencing physical or sexual violence by an intimate partner over a 12-month period.
“As the pandemic raged on, an alarming upsurge of the “shadow pandemic” of violence against women became evident, with increased rates of reporting on domestic violence, as well as in the streets, online and in a variety of settings,” reads part of a released statement by UN Women characterizing the problem.
We echo the statements uttered by the UN Women Executive Director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka to the fact that “We have seen the whole world respond to the coronavirus pandemic, with all hands on deck, and with responsive investment and protocols backed by determination. Violence against women is also a pandemic – one that pre-dates the virus and will outlive it…”
As school going children have been reported to have emerged from lockdowns pregnant this has raised further worries to the security of children at homes.
For his part, the UN Secretary-General has called for a ceasefire during the efforts to tackle the covid-19 pandemic especially in the homes where victims and abuser find themselves trapped into one inevitable hole as countries employ lockdowns to control the spread of the virus.
Many have followed through with stronger essential services, such as shelters, helplines and other reporting mechanisms. Yet, only 48 countries, less than a quarter of the 206 analysed in a recent study, treated violence against women and girls-related services as an integral part of their national and local COVID-19 response plans, with very few adequately funding these measures.
BFTU thus supports the UN’s call for the ceasefire and while we applaud government for positive strides so far made, particularly at Police stations, we submit that more decisive action is still required from government. More must still be done by involving all the players such as trade unions since sexual harassment has been confirmed to be a grave workplace issue.
In this regard we urge Botswana to further show renewed commitment by ratifying International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 190 with immediate effect and duly access the attendant technical support from relevant international systems for compliance.
To the extent that the problem of GBV carries implications for good health, the World Health Organization (WHO) offers in their website help for both potential victims and susceptible abusers on how they can each contribute to a proactive endeavour to prevent GBV from happening wherever they are.
We urge all trade unions and workers to actively participate in the fight against all forms of violence and harassment.
Thusang Butale (Mr)