Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/and AIDS (BONELA) takes pride in joining the international community in commemorating International Women’s day which the United Nations (UN) officially marked for the 8th March, and to celebrate accomplishments made over the years to positively impact the plight of women, especially the most marginalized and vulnerable.
Against this backdrop, BONELA submits that Botswana can do a lot more to translate the positive legal changes achieved thus far to practical and lasting solutions to existing human rights impediments. BONELA laments what it describes as remaining obstacles in the form of laws impeding marginalized women’s full enjoyment of rights and utilization of public health services provided by government and development partners.
To this end, particular reference is made to the need for the provision of comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for women residing in rural areas, sex workers, lesbians and transgendered people. In BONELA’s view this would entail providing women and girls, particularly women in hard to reach areas, adolescent girls and young women with a full course of SRHR ranging from prevention to termination of pregnancy. Comprehensive sexuality education in schools, the provision of contraceptives and prevention commodities such as condoms would also form part of such services.
The delayed ratification and domestication of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is found to be particularly problematic. Ms. Tebogo Gareitsanye, Policy and Legal Manager at BONELA observed that facilitating the full-fledged promotion and fulfilment of the rights of women with disabilities will remain a pipe dream until the CPRD is given meaning and relevance in the country’s local statutes. A further concern arises from the escalating rate of violence amongst vulnerable women such as sex workers which has been identified as one of the challenges the law needs to address.
BONELA however acknowledges and commends Government of Botswana for forging partnerships with the private sector and civil society that have put in place measures to intensify GBV prevention through awareness raising and educational campaigns, as well as the provision of counselling and places of safety for survivors.
In order to highlight the harmful gender norms and cultural practices and address the resultant negative effects for the ultimate elevation of the rights of women, Government has engaged traditional and Faith leaders in consultative forums in recognition of their roles as custodians of cultural and community norms and values.
It is particularly reassuring that the current national health strategies, cooperative agreements and contracts within government and development partners have deemed it fit to prioritize women as an essential target group to ensure they receive important services they need to lead healthy lives.
This comes against the backdrop of the ongoing review at the 23rd session of the UN General
Assembly with special focus on appraising and assessing the current challenges affecting the realization of recommendations of the declaration and the Platform of Action as conceived at the Beijing Summit 25 years ago.
On that note, BONELA calls on all relevant stakeholders to take the Women’s Rights Agenda seriously in order to fast track implementation of the objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action recommendations, in particular; to intensify the fight against gender based violence and for gender equality.
The ultimate empowerment of women and the achievement of gender equality falls in line with the envisaged full realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.