SINCE the first Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020, Botswana has witnessed an increase in the number of gender-based violence (GBV).
‘The cases have dropped from the time of lockdowns but are still higher than before lockdowns,’ said Lorato Moalusi, the chief executive officer of Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre (BGBVC), a non-governmental organisation.
Prior the lockdowns, the monthly average of those who sought refuge at the BGBVC shelter was nine, but during the course of the first lockdown, the average shelter admission rose to 40, while the average of those who sought counselling rose from 58 to 92. To date, the monthly average for shelter admissions is 11, while that for counselling services is at an all-time high of 94, according to Moalusi.
This rise in cases has compelled BGBVC to increase the number of safe havens across the country, Moalusi said.
With support from organisations including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Union, and the Botswana government, as well as other local development stakeholders, BGBVC was able to run nine extra shelters in 2020, one of which was dedicated to admitting men.
‘Shelter services were highly required as individuals could not stay with their perpetrators for prolonged and continuous periods, particularly during lockdowns,’ she said, noting that psychosocial support was also highly required to help people cope with not only the effects of Covd-19 and its subsequent lockdowns, but also with emotional violence and threats of physical violence.
‘We have also increased the number of houses in Gaborone from one, since inception in 1998, to four in 2021. We are also operating two houses in Francistown now,’ she said.
Now with offices in Gantsi, Molepolole, Francistown and Gaborone, BGBVC is able to offer temporary and emergency shelter, counseling, legal, clinical, as well as community outreach and education services to a great number of people across the nation.
Though both women and men experience gender-based violence, Moalusi is of the view that the major cause of GBV in the country is that GBV is entrenched in the patriarchal system, wherein women have long been treated as children, due to the prevalent gender inequalities. Hence, the majority of victims to date are still women and children.
Violence against men is not as systemic and endemic. Hence seeking counseling is not common among men as it is also not a culturally accepted act, Moalusi said.
To ensure change by breaking barriers and discouraging stigma so men can step forward, Moalusi’s non-governmental organisation has over the years included men in its services through couple counseling and opened services to male survivors of GBV.
Apart from employing men, recently the NGO changed its name from Kagisano Society Women’s shelter to Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre, all in an effort to encourage men to come forward and seek help.
BGBVC is now also working on providing online services.
‘We will soon train our counsellors and others in collaborating NGOs through a coalition known as Coalition for NGO Funding (CoNGOF). There are 21 NGOs that are members and are coordinated by DITSHWANELO – Botswana Human Rights Centre, Childline Botswana and BGBVC,’ Moalusi said.
Globally, Botswana is listed as one of the countries in the world with a prevalence of GBV cases, especially among women, according to Moalusi.
‘It is rated as number two on rape cases globally with 92.90 rape incidents per 100,000 citizens. Figures do not take into account rape incidents that go unreported to the police. Botswana has a rape culture that for a long time went on with impunity, but the country has now responded by putting in place a law on sex offenders registry,’ Moalusi added.