Rape and Domestic Violence: The law prohibits rape but does not recognize spousal rape as a crime, which is difficult to track without reporting. Laws against rape were effectively enforced when victims pressed charges; however, police noted victims often declined to press charges against the perpetrators, and the extent of the problem was likely underreported. In some cases of domestic but nonspousal rape, victims were afraid of losing financial support if perpetrators were found guilty and imprisoned. The number of reported rape cases decreased during the year from 1,332 in 2010 to 1,173 in 2011 between January and September in both years. NGOs continued efforts to improve awareness of the crime. By law the minimum sentence for rape is 10 years in prison, increasing to 15 years with corporal punishment if the offender is HIV-positive, and 20 years with corporal punishment if the offender was aware of having HIV-positive status. Corporal punishment was used more often in the customary than in the formal courts and typically consisted of strokes to the buttocks with a stick. Rape cases must be tried in formal courts. A person convicted of rape is required to undergo an HIV test before sentencing. The police do not have a specific unit dedicated to rape investigation, but the police have trained crime scene investigators and a forensics unit to respond to cases of rape and domestic violence.
The law prohibits domestic and other violence, whether against women or men, but it remained a serious problem. Police reported the following statistics for the year related to domestic violence: four cases of incest; 393 of indecent assault on girls, although those sexual assault cases reported were thought to represent only a fraction of the actual number of such incidents; 60 reported cases of passion killings; and 663 of death threats. In 2010 police reported 12,367 cases of common assault and 2,069 cases of assault causing bodily harm. Greater public awareness resulted in increased reporting of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual harassment in both the private and public sectors. Sexual harassment committed by a public officer is considered misconduct and punishable by termination, potentially with forfeiture of all retirement benefits; suspension with loss of pay and benefits for up to three months; reduction in rank or pay; deferment or stoppage of a pay raise; or reprimand. Nonetheless sexual harassment continued to be a widespread problem, particularly by men in positions of authority, including teachers, supervisors, and older male relatives.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right, and were able in practice, to decide freely the number, spacing, and timing of their children, and to have the information and means to do so free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. Contraception was widely available. According to the Population Reference Bureau, skilled attendance during childbirth averaged 94 percent across the country, with higher rates in urban areas. Obstetric and postpartum care was generally available, and women had equal access to testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. A government program, Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV, has effectively curtailed mother-to-child transmission. According to the Ministry of Health, the maternal mortality rate was 193 deaths per 100,000 births, and 90 percent of births were in hospitals.
Discrimination: By law women have the same civil rights as men, but societal discrimination persisted. A number of traditional laws enforced by tribal structures and customary courts restricted women’s property rights and economic opportunities, particularly in rural areas. Marriages can occur under one of three systems, each with its own implications for women’s property rights. A woman married under traditional law or in “common property” is held to be a legal minor and required to have her husband’s consent to buy or sell property, apply for credit, and enter into legally binding contracts. Under an intermediate system referred to as “in community of property,” married women may own real estate in their own names, and the law stipulates that neither spouse can dispose of joint property without the written consent of the other. Women increasingly exercised the right to marriage “out of common property,” in which they retained their full legal rights as adults. Polygamy is legal under traditional law with the consent of the first wife, but it was not common.
Skilled urban women had increasing access to entry- and mid-level white-collar jobs. According to a 2007 Grant Thornton International Business Report, 74 percent of businesses employed women in senior management positions, and women occupied 31 percent of such positions. Women occupied many senior-level positions in government bodies, such as speaker of the General Assembly, governor of the Bank of Botswana, attorney general, ministers of trade and industry and in education and skills development, assistant ministers in finance and development planning and in local government, and numerous permanent secretary positions. However, a 2007 UN report found that women’s political participation trailed that of men. In 2008 the Botswana Defense Force began to admit women. In 2008 the first class of Batswana female officer candidates completed training in Tanzania. During 2009 women were included as officer candidates in the first such in-country training and continued to be inducted as officer candidates during the year.
The Women’s Affairs Department in the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs has responsibility for promoting and protecting women’s rights and welfare. The department provided grants to NGOs working on women’s issues. A local NGO reported in 2010 that women were increasingly able to access credit markets and be paid as much as their male counterparts for similar work.