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Botswana

Executive Summary

Botswana is a constitutional, multiparty, republican democracy. Its constitution provides for the indirect election of a president and the popular election of a National Assembly. The Botswana Democratic Party has held a majority in the National Assembly since the nation’s founding in 1966. In 2019 President Mokgweetsi Masisi won his first full five-year term in an election that outside observers deemed free and fair.

The Botswana Police Service, which reports to the Ministry of Defense, Justice, and Security, has primary responsibility for internal security. The Botswana Defense Force, which reports to the president through the minister of defense, justice, and security, has some domestic security responsibilities. The Directorate of Intelligence and Security Services, which reports to the Office of the President, collects and evaluates external and internal intelligence, provides personal protection to high-level government officials, and advises the presidency and government on matters of national security. Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the security forces. Members of the security forces committed some abuses.

In April 2020, at President Masisi’s request, the National Assembly passed a six-month state of emergency as a COVID-19 mitigation measure. The National Assembly, again at the president’s request, extended the state of emergency for an additional six months in September 2020 and in April. Ostensibly to give the government necessary powers to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the terms of the state of emergency included a ban on the right of unions to strike, limits on free speech related to COVID-19, and restrictions on religious activities. It also served as the basis for several lockdowns that forced most citizens to remain in their homes for several weeks to curb the spread of the virus. Opposition groups, human rights organizations, and labor unions argued that the state of emergency powers were too broad, placed too much power in the presidency, and were unnecessarily restrictive. Parliament did not extend the state of emergency beyond September 30 when President Masisi declared it no longer necessary.

Significant human rights issues included credible reports of: arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy; serious restrictions on free expression and media, including an unjustified arrest or prosecution of journalists and the existence of criminal slander and libel laws; substantial interference with freedom of association; serious acts of government corruption; and the existence of the worst forms of child labor, including commercial sexual exploitation of children and forced child labor.

The government took steps to prosecute officials who committed abuses or were implicated in corruption. Impunity was generally not a problem.

Section 6. Discrimination and Societal Abuses

Children

Birth Registration: In general, citizenship is derived from one’s parents, although there are limited circumstances in which citizenship may be derived from birth within the country’s territory. The government generally registered births promptly. Unregistered children may be denied some government services, including enrollment in secondary schools and national exams.

Education: Primary education is tuition free for the first 10 years of school but is not compulsory. Parents of secondary school students must cover tuition fees as well as the cost of uniforms and books. These costs could be waived for children whose family income fell below a certain level.

Human rights organizations and minority tribes criticized the policy that designates English and Setswana as the only officially recognized languages, thereby forcing some children to learn in a nonnative language. In 2018 the UN special rapporteur on minority issues noted that the lack of mother tongue education or failure to incorporate minority languages into the school curriculum may constitute discrimination and encouraged the government to review its language policy regarding education. In July the government announced the final draft of an education language policy to provide guidance on implementation of mother tongue teaching in schools. The government proposed to implement 11 languages for Phase 1 beginning January 2022.

Child Abuse: The law penalizes neglect and mistreatment of children. There was reportedly widespread abuse of children. Child abuse was reported to police in cases of physical harm to a child. Police referred children and, depending on the level of abuse, their alleged abuser(s) to counseling in the Department of Social Services within the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development as well as to local NGOs. Police referred some cases to the Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

The deputy opposition whip, Pono Moatlhodi, was charged in 2020 with assault for allegedly setting a dog on a boy age 12 he suspected of stealing mangoes. The lawmaker offered the boy 40,000 pula ($3,480) in compensation, but government prosecutors rejected the offer and pursued an assault case against him. The case began May, but there was no verdict as of the end of the year.

Child, Early, and Forced Marriage: Child marriage occurred infrequently and was largely limited to certain tribes. The government does not recognize marriages that occur when either party is younger than the minimum legal age of 18.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits child sex trafficking and sexual abuse of children. Conviction of sex with a child younger than 18 constitutes defilement (statutory rape) and is punishable by a minimum of 10 years’ incarceration. The penalty for conviction of not reporting incidents of child sexual exploitation ranges from a substantial monetary fine to imprisonment for no less than two years but no greater than three years, or both. Perpetrators who engage in sexual exploitation of children are punished, if convicted, with a substantial monetary fine, imprisonment for no less than five years but no longer than 15 years, or both. The law further requires the government to develop programs to prevent the sexual exploitation of children. In 2019 member of parliament Polson Majaga was charged with defilement of a minor and was subsequently suspended by the BDP from party activities but retained his seat in the legislature. In March Majaga was acquitted of defilement.

Child advocacy groups reported increases in sexual abuse of children during COVID-19 lockdowns. For example, in April 2020 UNICEF reported 23 cases of defilement and 22 rape cases during the first seven days of the national lockdown.

Child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by five to 15 years’ imprisonment.

Displaced Children: Orphans and vulnerable children received government support. Once registered as an orphan, a child receives school uniforms, shelter, a monthly food basket, and counseling as needed.

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.

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