The plight of our children needs all this country's citizens to stand and be counted as we seek to protect and nurture the future of this country. In the last two weeks media has been awash with stories of sexual abuse and exploitation of the girl child particularly at primary, junior and senior secondary levels. In her letter of 11 May 2016 the Minister of Education, Dr Unity Dow, shows that a total of 407 students and pupils have dropped out of school since April 2015 due to pregnancy. Of these, 16 are from primary school, 126 from junior secondary schools and 265 from senior secondary schools. She says, in her letter addressed to Councillor Kemmonye Amon “and others” “…these are numbers, cold figures, but behind these figures are real girls whose futures have been altered by your actions”. We cannot agree more.
In these allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation of the girl child are included names of political leaders in our society. It would now appear that these revelations, including the statistics from the minister, mean that these crimes against the girl child have reached a crisis level, and have to be addressed as a national crisis. As others have said we concur that the President should use powers bestowed on him by the constitution to protect the girl child by instituting a commission of inquiry as has been done by your predecessors when this country was faced with crises which were arguably less disheartening than this. There can be no doubt that it is in the interest of the public that the President appoint a Commission of Inquiry to investigate instances of sexual abuse and exploitation of the girl child, which instances, as government has just shown with statistics, have reached mammoth and unacceptable proportions.
We are shocked that even in the face on this national crisis some law enforcement officers were ordered to go and arrest innocent campaigners standing at intersections and traffic lights. It is even more disheartening that this happens just a day after the same police refused to grant the campaigners permission for a peaceful demonstration. While those knowledgeable in law argue that there is no law, which outlaws gatherings by members of the public, we note the notorious Public Order Act, which is often invoked to suppress freedom of association. It is used to suppress dissent by over-prescribing procedures for peaceful demonstrations.
The police, in Botswana often refuse to grant a permit for peaceful march because the recipient has not confirmed that they will receive a petition. This is clearly an excuse to deny those seeking to deliver a petition or to hold a march such opportunity. It is also common knowledge that the police will make all sorts of ridiculous demands and prescriptions on those applying for a permit to hold a march, clearly a strategy to defeat the whole purpose of the demonstration. Such barbaric laws should be repealed and replaced with those that are friendlier to the control of public order, not some archaic statute from days of colonialism.
The reprieve won by UDC president for the campaigners arrested on Friday may not last long as the state will device other means to counter the campaign by #IShallNotForget movement. Which begs the question, ss government really committed to the fight against the scourge that is the abuse of the girl child, which has been proven to have spiraled out of control?