I must start by thanking the organisers of the event for their dedication to the pursuit of social justice and the protection of our treasures – our young. The voices of young people through facebook and other forms of social media are calling upon us all to listen, learn and ACT! The problem of gender-based violence and sexual abuse continues to threaten peace and makes the notion of safety and security a myth rather than a reality. The National Gender-Based Violence Indicators study conducted by Genderlinks in 2012 pointed to the embeddedness of cases of violence – mostly against women and girls in Botswana. One of the most alarming findings is the low rate of reporting – the prevalence rate as reported by female and male participants of the study, was 24 times higher than the number of cases reported to the Police over the last year! Successful conviction rate of GBV cases viewed against this overall figure is less than one percent (1%) of GBV experienced.
A study conducted by Stepping Stones International (Botswana) in 2014 and 2015 indicated that Child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSAE) remains a pervasive legal, health, social, and developmental problems in the world. Sexual violence against children occurs everywhere irrespective of location, race, religion, culture, and social class. It occurs in settings in which children live and play: their homes, schools, streets, and communities. Stepping Stones conducted a study to assess the preparedness of key government ministries that provide services to survivors in Artesia, Bobonong, Goodhope, and Francistown. The findings indicated that despite the extent and impact of sexual violence on children and youth, governments, civil society, and non-governmental organisations rarely evaluate their services. In addition, most institutions serving children and youth lack reliable data because their system structures and processes are weak and fragmented. This means that children who have survived sexual abuse are not well catered for by the very people who are charged with the responsibility of protecting them. Are we as a society taking the needs of our children seriously?
Many of us tend to point at each other – shirking our responsibilities of addressing social problems such as incest, sexual harassment and other forms of power-based coercion of your young people. Is child sexual abuse a political issue? It has to be a political issue because it touches on the welfare of the most vulnerable members of this population. It is an issue that must be taken seriously by all political parties, our legislators religious, state and other leaders should show categorically that the exploitation of children and youth is a travesty of democratic principles that we cherish so dearly. It is through this type of action that civil society – the people show that we love our children and will not allow rhetoric and loud silences within to prevent us from protecting their rights.
This is part of Dr Godisang Mookodi’s remarks on the occasion of the March Against Child Sexual Abuse on 4th June, 2016.