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Risk Analysis and Countermeasures of Gender-Based Violence in Botswana

Case study

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International Journal of Innovation and Economic Development
Volume 4, Issue 1, April 2018, Pages 60-64

Risk Analysis and Countermeasures of Gender-Based Violence in Botswana

DOI: 10.18775/ijied.1849-7551-7020.2015.41.2006
URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.18775/ijied.1849-7551-7020.2015.41.2006

Oitshupile Khumo Maswabi

 School of Administration, Wuhan University of Technology, Wuhan, China

Abstract: One of the most prevalent human rights violations in the world is Gender-based violence. It knows no economic, national or social boundaries. Over 67% of women in Botswana have experienced abuse, which is more than double the global average. This research on gender-based violence in Botswana focuses on the cycle of violence within abusive relationships, why victims stay in abusive relationships, and what can be done to make them leave abusive relationships, how much they know about the effects of gender-based violence, as well as the coping mechanisms of gender-based violence. Gender-based violence occurs in many ways, and it seems to be more prevalent among married couples especially where the wife is not working, and the husband is the only breadwinner in the household. This research had been carried out in Botswana. A face-to-face interview had been conducted in Botswana randomly to see if people of Botswana are aware of this disturbing phenomenon. A visit to Kagisano Women’s shelter had been undertaken, to get first-hand information because it is where abused women are given shelter.  The results of the research will assist in identifying support and resources that can be put in place to combat gender-based violence in Botswana.

Keywords: Gender-based violence, Abuse of women, Botswana, Risk analysis of violence

Risk Analysis and Countermeasures of Gender-Based Violence in Botswana

1. Introduction

Gender-based violence has long been a topical issue globally.  Various reasons have been cited as to why people engage in gender abuse. Metlhaetsile Women’s Information Centre (1999) clearly points out that the idea that men are bread winners and women are home makers contributes a lot to domestic violence.  This widely researched topic, undermines the dignity, security, autonomy as well as the health of its victims, and yet it remains concealed in the normalization and silence culture. Those who suffer violence are mostly women and girls, and they can end up suffering from forced sexual and reproductive health consequences like sexually transmitted infections with the inclusion of HIV, as well as unwanted pregnancies. Men can also suffer at the hands of their abusive partners, but mostly they never report or come out for fear of victimization by the society. According to the study carried out by the government of Botswana in partnership with Gender Links, a regional Non-governmental organization in 2012, it was established that the prevalence of violence against women was at 67.3% and that 62.3% of the women sampled were experiencing abuse within partner relationships.

1.1 Types of Abuse

1.1.1 Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse or mental abuse, is an act that includes verbal assault, or any other treatment which may diminish the sense of identity, dignity, and self-worth. Examples of emotional abuse are:

  • Ignoring or excessively criticizing
  • Belittling the victim in front of children or relatives or friends
  • Ignoring the victim or excluding her/him in important assignments
  • Name calling and insulting, yelling and swearing
  • Making derogative statements about the victim
  • Isolating an individual socially and preventing her/him to have friends or visitors
  • Telling the individual that they are worthless
  • Ordering the individual around as if she is a child

1.1.2 Physical Abuse

Physical Abuse is the form of abuse whereby there is the use of physical force against another person in such that a person ends up injured, or puts the person at risk of having an injury. Physical abuse includes the following: Beating, choking or burning an individual. Slapping, punching or kicking, assaulting with a knife or any other sharp instrument, even shooting with a gun, inflicting any pain on other people.

1.1.3 Sexual Abuse

Sexual Abuse refers to the unwanted sexual activity which is used by the perpetrator to control or demean the victim, like forcing the victim into engaging in unsafe sex or forcing her to perform sexual activities against her will. This can include forcing someone to watch pornography and engaging her in sexual activity afterward or forcing them to participate in pornography filming.

1.1.4 Stalking or Cyber-Stalking

Stalking is a form of harassment in a threatening way that can haunt the victim physically or emotionally. Stalking includes the following:  Searching through the victim’s handbags, car or even garbage; Tracking the victim’s computer usage, going through her email account or gaining access to her mobile phone; Contacting the victim’s friends and family to get information from them;  Threatening to hurt pets or family members of the victim and purposely ignoring restraining orders; Using hidden cameras to see what the victim is doing. Stalking can be done at the victim’s place of work or where she lives.  A stalker can show up at the victim’s place of work uninvited or even gaining access to all her accounts to see whom she communicates with. Stalking is very dangerous and unpredictable, therefore should be reported as soon as possible.

1.1.5 Economic/Financial Abuse

Financial abuse takes place where the other party withholds the victim’s bank card so that she cannot have access to withdraw any money from the bank. Refusing to let the victim work to earn her salary, exploiting the victim’s resources for personal gain or using the victim’s money to satisfy his relatives are also considered as a form of financial abuse. In most cases, the abuser prefers to do all the shopping and will not allow the victim to have money.

2. Causes of Gender-Based Violence

In Botswana, most of the abusers are men who grew up in an abusive home, and they take emotional and physical violence as a way that is valid to vent their anger. The modelling that they saw when they were growing up gets strengthened by using abusive and violent tactics to solve problems, they have formed a big control over others through the abusive tactics. Drug abuse may also contribute to domestic abuse. Girls who have witnessed abuse in their home may also take it that it is a norm for females to be abused; therefore, they stay in abusive relationships after marriage. Also, abusers who are not reported to authorities enjoy abusing others. Some abusers pretext problems encountered at work to abuse other people. A jealous and envious person will mostly make sure that he/she abuses his/her partner. Most of the times, wives who do not work, stay in abusive marriages because they fear that they will end up suffering economically since the abuser is the one who fulfils their financial needs. In Botswana, many wives who stay in abusive marriages are culturally informed that a man is the head of the family. Therefore, they should never question his movements, which is very wrong.

Mostly, abusive men may spend nights and days somewhere else since they know that the wives are not supposed to ask them about their whereabouts. The escalating numbers of passion killing in Botswana is a clear sign that some people abuse their partners out of despair when the partner wants to end the relationship. In most cases, you will find that the abusers (men) are insecure people who are less educated than their partners and who earn less than their partners. Another cause of gender-based violence is extramarital affairs. This can cause emotional abuse to the victim and sometimes when she confronts the abuser about it; she is likely to suffer physical abuse. Some people prefer to keep quiet in order to save their marriages. Some women report the perpetrators to the police, later to withdraw the cases because of fear of victimization. Gender-based violence in Botswana could be described as endemic because of limited employment opportunities which sometimes leads to alcohol consumption, especially in the youth.

3. Signs of Gender-Based Violence

3.1 As an Abuser

  • Embarrassing the other party by belittling her in front of friends and colleagues
  • Acting in ways that scare the victim
  • Controlling her movements, what she does or whom she talks to
  • Isolating an individual from seeing her friends or family members
  • Confiscating all bank cards and making her beg for money
  • Making all decisions and
  • Threatening to commit suicide
  • Hitting, choking the victim or any other physical abuse
  • Threatening to kill the victim and/or children

3.2 As a Victim

  • Injuries from choking, punching or being thrown down or any other sign of physical abuse on the body
  • Trying to hide bruises with makeup or clothes
  • Telling people that you tripped and fell or being prone to accidents, and often the explanation does not match up with the seriousness of the injury
  • Being isolated from friends and relatives or co-workers
  • Having to request permission to do things with other people or even to meet other people
  • Always giving excuses for not attending social gatherings like weddings, parties.
  • Having little or no resources like money and bank cards of your own
  • Low self-esteem, being meek and extremely apologetic
  • Substance or alcohol abuse
  • Showing signs of depression
  • Always being protective towards the abuser because of fear
  • Always self-blaming even if it is not your fault
  • Frequent absenteeism

4. Risk Analysis of Gender-Based Violence in Botswana

According to the community conversations and interviews conducted by the researcher, it was evident that though there are some rare cases of men being abused by women, in most cases men were responsible for the violence in and outside the family. In Botswana, men pay hefty bride prices when they get married; therefore, some of them feel that they have bought their wives and that they have ownership of them. Because of the myths and beliefs in the community about those who have survived gender-based violence, there is a lot of shame, disgrace, and stigma; therefore, some people opt to become silent even if they are suffering. Some parents encourage their daughters to engage in prostitution so that they can also benefit from the income gained from the act. Most of the time it is married to old men who leave their wives and perform sexual activities with younger women paying them after the act. This is not accepted in the community since the girls are vulnerable to diseases such as HIV AIDS and unwanted pregnancies. Not only women are victims of violence, but men too. It is very rare for men to report cases of violence as they fear that the police will mock them. Again some people choose to keep quiet because there was no privacy at the police stations.

In Botswana, many women used to stay home while their husbands go to other towns to work. Many women were abused because they depended on their husbands financially. Therefore a lot of women were forced to stay in abusive relationships. Though the situation has changed, still many women prefer to stay in abusive relationships because they are scared to be loners. In Botswana, there is a word “lefetwa”, this refers to women who are old but not married. Women do not want to be called ‘mafetwa’ or left overs, and prefer to stay in abusive relationships. A lot of people are abused emotionally because of this since it affects their health. Emotional abuse poses the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack, high blood pressure, and others. These also force the government to use a lot of money on health care costs and affects productivity. Physically abused victims also are affected emotionally as it takes a long time for them to recover and still have to incur medical costs. Children who witness abuse in their homes are unlikely to do well at school. Therefore, abuse also affects their school work. Most of them end up being abusers themselves because they believe that an abusive relationship is normal as they grew up seeing people being abused. Victims of abuse might turn to substance abuse and some end up committing suicides. Drug abusers are prone to risks such as being raped and being infected with diseases like HIV AIDS or even ending up with unwanted pregnancies, or being killed by perpetrators to destroy the evidence of being caught.

5. Ways to Combat Gender-Based Violence

In Botswana, there are some shelters like Kagisano Women’s Shelter, where abused people are given accommodation. There is also SOS where abused children can go for help when they are abused.  There is also Childline where abused children can go to seek help especially if they are abused by their parents. Workshops about domestic violence should be conducted, and both men and women should participate in these workshops because they have to be well informed about gender abuse. More often than not, people tend to think that only women are abused, but abuse affects all the people, some men are abused by their wives, and the fear of being ridiculed stops them from reporting such matters to the authorities, which is wrong.

The police force should be involved in these matters and should be properly informed about ways of combating such crimes.  People should report violence when they suspect that there is any.  The community should engage in projects that inform the public about domestic violence, and everybody should be involved.  Domestic violence awareness groups should be formed and should always be alert to inform the police whenever there is a need to. Domestic violence should be a frequent topic in kgotla meetings, and all the chiefs should have wide knowledge so that they can inform the public about the violence. Whenever people get married, the marriage officer should ensure that she/he takes time to inform the newly-weds about domestic violence before the marriage certificate can be obtained. Researchers suggest that one of the most effective ways to deal with partner violence is by allowing the victim to have the encouragement, support, and power to stop it. Ellis D. & Wight L. (1997) highlights that women who are abused, wish that  the violence could stop and most of them attempt to do something to end it.

6. Conclusion

From the research done, it is evident that a lot of people in Botswana are being abused mostly by their partners but are failing to get out of those relationships because they fear for their lives. With the escalating numbers of passion killing in Botswana, a lot of women are still going to lose their lives if they do not take the warnings seriously.  It shows from the research that some abusers make death threats to their partners, but the partners just ignore these death threats, and this threats ultimately end up being carried out.  People should be made aware that it is an offense to make death threats to other people and that death threats should be seriously taken into consideration.  Moreover, people should learn to say enough is enough, nobody deserves to be abused, and nobody should stay in an abusive relationship for the sake of being looked after.  The government of Botswana has come up with many strategies of eradicating poverty. Therefore it is not an excuse for people to stay in abusive relationship because of poverty.  The best way to assist those who are affected by gender-based violence is to advise them to leave abusive relationships and give them support rather than stigmatizing them.

6.1 Future Prospects

The issue closely linked to the topic of this study that needs further research and scrutiny, is the role that the government of Botswana plays in as far as domestic violence is concerned, as it seems from the findings of this study that the high rising numbers of people who are being abused never report to the authorities, or they do report, only to withdraw cases later. The government should put into place some strategies that will effectively combat this issue of global concern in strict measures so that abusers will think twice whenever they commit these crimes.


I wish to thank Kagisano Womens’ Shelter staff for their support in writing this article. I am also grateful to the Editors of the journal for their useful and valuable suggestions which have made this article to be of good quality.  Special thanks to my husband Aubrey Maswabi, my mother and my daughters for their support and encouragement.


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