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Botswana Sees Dramatic Rise in Reported Rape Cases

Botswana and Namibia
Botswana and Namibia

Police in Botswana say reported incidents of rape have nearly doubled in the past year. Activists say successful anti-rape campaigns have made victims more confident about reporting when they are attacked. But the higher recorded levels of rape also have spurred activists in Botswana to demand more action against sexual assault.

Thirty-two-year-old “Mpho Modise” – not her real name – was attacked and raped by two men while walking home earlier this year.

"Even up to now it is still on me. Sometimes I try to forget about it but, when it comes to my mind, I feel the pain," said Modise. "I tried to look for people to counsel me, but still the pain is still on me."

Police say there were 1,600 reported cases of rape in the first three quarters of 2019 – almost double compared to that period for each of the previous two years.

Activists like Desmond Lunga of Men and Boys for Gender Equality, say the increase is due to victims feeling more comfortable about reporting attacks due to increased campaigning against rape.

"The first thing that we have been doing as activists is to encourage people to report," said Lunga. "There has been a lot of rape happening, but people have not been reporting. As we see the numbers increasing, sometimes it is also to say people are seeing this and are able to go and report."

Despite this trend, social worker Kgomotso Jongman says rape remains difficult to deal with, due to the fact that in most cases, the perpetrator is known to the victim.

"The majority of the people who were raped, were raped by family members or people closer to the family or people that they know," said Jongman. "That is something that I found very strange and very disturbing."

Lorato Moalusi of the Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Center says more research is needed on the causes behind the widespread sexual assaults.

"The scourge of rape is high. Botswana has done very well in trying to control HIV but, if we are not going to try and control sexual violence, we will lose all the gains that we made," said Moalusi. "The silence must be broken, the silence is too loud."

Botswana’s vulnerable are hoping that more accurate rape statistics will spur the nation to take more action.