November 11, 2012
By Janet Mooketsi
Close to 700 young women were murdered, some brutally, by their partners or lovers in the last ten years in what is popularly known as passion killing. During the same period 57 men died mostly through suicide after killing their lovers.
||No. of males victims
||No. of females victims
The worst year was in 2010 when 102 women were killed compared to three men. However, police were not able to say whether the men were killed by other men, women partners or whether they committed suicide. Their deaths are recorded as related to passion killing but indications are that the majority took their own lives are killing their partners. As for women the police were certain that they were murdered.
According to Botswana Police Service statistics, 746 people were murdered by those who claimed to love them since 2003. The statistics show that females account for the largest number of victims – 689 compared to men’s 57. However these figures could be higher because police only released statistics up to May this year. Between January and May this year 34 women and two men have already died.
The police say despite regular appeals for people to seek counselling when they have misunderstandings, people still resort to violence and kill their partners. Not all incidents of such murders are reported but some families silently bury their children. The age range of the victims and perpetrators is 18 to 35 but there are few a incidents of older people killing their partners.
The problem still persits across the country even in small villages. Kang alone recorded three killings this year. According to Lindah Matlhogela of Kang Customary Court, last month a woman was killed by her boyfriend after a misunderstanding. Two other women were murdered by their partners and the men were arrested. The victims were killed by either stabbing with sharp objects or strangulation.
Tlokweng Deputy Kgosi, Spokes Gaborone, says Batswana have abandoned the cultural values and practices, hence the general indiscipline now ravaging communities. In an interview he warned in that these unfortunate murders “will continue for as long as we shun our culture and traditions”.
He singled out the practice of cohabitation describing it as an affront to culture. Kgosi Gaborone said it is a problem because when cohabiting people have a misunderstanding, relatives cannot intervene because the relationship was not a formal arrangement. He said where relatives try to intervene the couple would engage lawyers to protect their rights. He added that this isolates the couple who then resort to killing each other.
The other problem, according to Kgosi Gaborone was the word ‘abuse’ ”Whenever we try to address issues of indiscipline we are criticised for abusing people”. He feared that such killings would continue as long as Batswana undermine their culture and let indiscipline continue in communities.
The Kgosi also blamed over indulging in alcohol by young people who then resort to violence to solve their problems. Gaborone has an issue with the way District Commissioners conduct marriages, saying they should go beyond presiding over the signing of the marriage certificate.
He said the weakness with this arrangement was that District Commissioners even preside over marriages where parents were not involved. He argued that when problems arise later in the marriage District Commissioners would be no way to assist.
The word passion is described in the Webster’s Dictionary of the English language as meaning ‘intense or violent emotion,’ ‘intense anger’ or ‘a violent emotional outburst’. This is the intense anger that has terrified communities across the country.
In 2008 a youth organisation called Youth Dialogue Era organised a conference which brought together the police, judicial system, religious organizations, civil society and the media to discuss the worrying crime of passion killing.
When he opened the conference, Former President Festus Mogae described passion killing as “gender-based violence and a reflection of the unequal power in relationship between men and women. The majority of victims are women some of whom would have endured many years of abuse. Once they want to opt out, their partners feel humiliated and cut their lives short.
“Methods of murder are brutal indeed. There are cases of beheading, cutting off of limbs, multiple stabbings with sharp instruments, suffocation, shooting with rifles, burning to death and strangling.”
A worried Mogae said: “For us to become a compassionate, just and caring nation by 2016 we need to tackle challenges posed by such extreme violence. There is need to strengthen the roles of the family, leadership at different levels of society, faith-based organizations and civil society in order to maintain societal values. These types of crime are eating into the fabric of our society and eroding our traditional systems and values.”
In 2008 Parliament passed a law addressing domestic violence – the Domestic Violence Act. The law covers married people, children, family members and cohabiting couples. It defines domestic violence as ‘’any controlling or abusive behaviour that harms the health or safety of the applicant [the person who applies to court for protection].”
It covers physical abuse or threat, sexual abuse or threat, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, damage to property, unlawful detainment, stalking, and entry into the complainant’s home without his or her consent if they do not stay together.
The law defines emotional, verbal or psychological abuse as, amongst others, “the exhibition of obsessive possessiveness or jealousy which is such as to constitute a serious invasion of the applicant’s privacy, liberty, integrity or security.”
The law gives those who feel uncomfortable with their partners the right to apply for a court order. The application for a court order can also be brought on behalf of a person by a counsellor, health service provider, Botswana Police Service, Local Police, social worker, teacher, District Commissioner or any other person.
Amongst other orders, the court “may authorize the issue of a warrant of arrest of the respondent where it is satisfied that the applicant or child is under imminent danger from the respondent.”
The police have often complained that people who report abuse or threats to them withdraw charges forcing the police to release the perpetrator. Some the victims also withdraw their complaints at the Magistrate Court level.