Deputy Bamagwato regent Kgosi Serogola Seretse has joined Batswana to strongly condemn the incidents of gender based violence which have been increasing at an alarming rate in Botswana.
In his recent address to the nation, the President of Botswana Mokgweetsi Masisi also spoke against this problem indicating that the 2018 Botswana National Relationship study and the current prevalence of Gender Based Violence (GBV) reveals that many women and men experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. He further called on Batswana to take decisive steps and act collectively against it.
In an interview, Kgosi Seretse said cases of gender based violence needs decisive action to contain them at an early stage. He encouraged victims of GBV not to shy away from reporting them so that the perpetrators can face the long arm of the law.
Dikgosi are not only the custodian of our culture, but they are also involved in providing law and order and Kgosi Seretse said they receive different cases of GBV every week before them.
He said the common cases that they receive are assaults which happen between young couples.
Kgosi Seretse said the violence which has often been perpetuated by the consumption of alcohol is worrying. "Most of the cases I deal with of GBV are related to alcohol and it is mostly youth who assaults their lovers after engaging in consumption of alcohol," he said.
"During the brief ban in the sale of alcohol as a way of fighting the spread of Covid 19 we witnessed a dramatic change in such incidents as we received fewer cases," he added.
Furthermore Kgosi Seretse warned against cohabitation lifestyle as he said it often lead to violence in the long run when the relationship becomes sour.
He said the lifestyle contribute immensely to the issue of gender based violence as often when the couple separate it always brings conflict over the break-up and even the assets accumulated during the time the couple were staying together. "It's usually become difficult to resolve such cases because if there is no prove of purchase of assets one never knows who owns what and usually such cases bring further conflict that always end in violence,” he said.
Kgosi Serogola Seretse had therefore implored unmarried couple to avoid cohabitation lifestyle.
The Bamangwato deputy regent said the incidents of Gender Based Violence are not only exclusive to young unmarried couples, he said they also include those who are involved in the holy matrimony.
He said married couples visit kgotla voluntarily to seek counsel regarding the conflict in their marriage before it could culminate to violence.
He said he usually advise them to practice the most important aspect of a good marriage which is humility. "Humility is important in a marriage, a woman should be able to submit to the husband, however it does not give the man freedom to trample on the right of his wife, his duty is to reciprocate the wife submission by loving her...love and submission are important tenets of a loving and peaceful marriage, “he said.
"Couple should know their role in a marriage," he added.
However Seretse said there is time when even mediation from the bogosi cannot keep a marriage from conflict. “When love had faded I often advise couple to go their separate ways because no amount of talk can rekindle a broken relationship, so parting ways is always advisable because the more they are together it can end in violence and even death," he said.
Seretse further expressed concern over victims who withdraw cases and sternly cautioned victims who are mostly women against such. He said that once the perpetrator hit you they had now planted the seed and they are bound to become violent against you once more. "I don't encourage withdrawal of cases, I implore anyone who is a victim to report and let the law takes its course, let that person face the consequences, maybe then they will learn not to transgress the law again," he said.
He further said it is disheartening as some of these cases remain unreported.
He said one of the reasons for withdrawal and unreported cases is often that the perpetrator is a bread winner and the victims who are often women will develop cold feet because reporting the perpetrators will bring to an end their source of income
"Some suffer abuse because they have children with these people, you will find that they are afraid if they report the perpetrators they will lose the source of income that is provided to them," he said.
"I therefore encourage women not to fall victim because of such things, women should learn not to be dependent on men, they should learn to be independent so that they can easily walk away from such abusive and toxic relationships...times are gone when women were supposed to be housekeepers, it's time for them to be self- dependent," he advised.
He further encouraged victims GBV to bring them in the open so that they may be nipped in the bud through proper punishments.
The tribal leader who is known for the use of corporal punishment by imposing strokes on offenders’ bare buttocks said the form of discipline usually works as most of the perpetrators usually think twice before coming back. “Lashing is number one medicine compared to prison, I have received testimonies from parents, spouses and girlfriends who said once the culprits leave the Kgotla after receiving the lashing they change their lives for the better, some find work, go back to school and others even start attending church… and I can also tell you that it is rare to see repeat offenders at my Kgotla,” he said.
In the meantime the deputy regent emphasized the need for the government to invest in cultural programs like mophato which previously played an important role in teaching young men and women to be responsible future parents, husbands, wives and well-rounded human beings.
"Government should help with sponsoring cultural programs that were previously used to instill discipline in the lives of young men and women, they can build them to be responsible adults, a young man is taught how to handle a woman and vice versa, these are the basics of how to behave, these programs are expensive logistically and it's imperative for government to get involved," he said.