Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape but does not recognize spousal rape as a crime. Authorities effectively enforced laws against rape when victims pressed charges; however, police noted victims often declined to press charges against perpetrators, and the extent of the problem was likely underreported. In some cases of domestic nonspousal rape, victims were afraid of losing financial support if perpetrators were found guilty and imprisoned. 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 unaware, and 20 years with corporal punishment if the offender is HIV-positive and aware. By law formal courts try all rape cases. A person convicted of rape is required to undergo an HIV test before sentencing. The BPS did not have a specific unit dedicated to rape investigation, but trained crime scene investigators and a forensics unit to respond to cases of rape and domestic violence. NGOs continued efforts to improve awareness of rape.
The law prohibits domestic and other violence, whether against women or men, but it remained a serious problem. Greater public awareness resulted in increased reporting of domestic violence and sexual assault.
According to a 2012 study of gender-based violence funded by the Ministry of Labor and Home Affairs’ Department of Women’s Affairs, 67 percent of women had experienced gender-based violence (GBV) at least once in their life, while 29 percent experienced it in the previous year. Approximately 44 percent of men admitted perpetrating violence against women. A 2016 report by an international donor agency stated that most GBV cases went unreported due to fear of further violence or loss of economic support from the perpetrator.
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 and supervisors.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. The UN Population Division reported 53 percent of girls and women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception in 2013. According to World Bank data, the maternal mortality ratio was 129 deaths per 100,000 live births, although skilled health personnel attended 99 percent of births in the country as a whole, with lower rates in rural areas. The leading causes of maternal mortality included postpartum hemorrhage, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy, unsafe abortion, and HIV/AIDS-related infections. The major factors hindering greater contraceptive prevalence rates included a shortage of supplies, provider biases, inadequately skilled health-care workers, HIV status, culture, religion, and popularly accepted myths and misconceptions.
Discrimination: By law women have the same civil rights and legal status under the constitution as men, but societal discrimination persisted. The country has a dual legal system consisting of formal law derived from the constitution and customary law based on tribal practice. 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 may 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 and other property in their own names, and the law stipulates neither spouse may 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. Polygyny is legal under traditional law with the consent of the first wife but was not common.
Skilled urban women had increasing access to entry- and mid-level white-collar jobs. Women occupied many senior-level positions in government, including speaker of the National Assembly, governor of the Bank of Botswana, attorney general, minister of foreign affairs and international cooperation, minister of education, and minister of health.
The Gender Affairs Department in the Ministry of Nationality, Immigration, and Gender Affairs has responsibility for promoting and protecting women’s rights and welfare. The department provided grants to NGOs working on women’s issues. A Southern Africa Development Community study in 2012 found women owned and operated the majority of informal-sector businesses, but the proportion of women in salaried formal employment was lower than that of men. There is no legal requirement that women receive equal pay for equal work.
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; however, there were some delays in remote locations. Unregistered children may be denied some government services.
Education: Primary education was tuition-free for the first 10 years of school but not compulsory. Parents must cover school 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. All school-age children have a right to the first 10 years of schooling. Thereafter, to access further education, they must pass the Junior Certificate Examination to get into senior secondary school.
Child Abuse: Child abuse occurred and often was reported to police in cases of physical harm to a child. Police referred the 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. Local human rights groups raised concerns about the use and administration of corporal punishment by traditional courts and in schools, which many believed to be excessive.
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 under the minimum legal age of 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the prostitution and sexual abuse of children. Sex with a child younger than age 16 constitutes defilement and is punishable by a minimum of 10 years’ incarceration. There were defilement investigations and convictions during the year. There were reports teachers sexually abused students. Other school officials and members of victims’ extended family with whom they resided also reportedly sexually abused children.
By law child prostitution is an act of defilement punishable by a minimum of 10 years’ imprisonment. Child pornography is a criminal offense punishable by five to 15 years in prison. Media and NGO reports claimed most incidents of child trafficking occurred in villages, where children were used for forced labor and sexual exploitation.
Displaced Children: In 2013 the UN Children’s Fund, which defines an orphan as a child with one or both parents deceased, estimated there were 130,000 orphans in the country, of whom approximately 96,000 had lost one or both parents due to HIV/AIDS. The government, which defines an orphan as a child both of whose parents are dead, registered 38,596 children as orphans and 32,068 as vulnerable in 2013. Once registered as an orphan, a child receives school uniforms, shelter, a monthly food basket worth between 216 pula ($21) and 600 pula ($57), depending upon location, 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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There was a very small Jewish population, and there were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in education, employment, access to health care and the judicial system, or the provision of other state services. The law does not prohibit discrimination by private persons or entities. The law does not specifically prohibit discrimination against persons with sensory or intellectual disabilities. The government has a policy that provides for integrating the needs of persons with disabilities into all aspects of government policymaking. The government mandates access to public buildings or transportation for persons with disabilities, but civil society sources reported access for persons with disabilities was limited. The law does not specifically include air travel with other modes of transportation, but in general persons with disabilities were provided access to air transportation. Although new government buildings were being constructed in such a way as to provide access for persons with disabilities, older government office buildings remained largely inaccessible. Most new privately owned commercial and apartment buildings provided access for persons with disabilities.
Children with disabilities attended school; there was no information available regarding patterns of abuse in educational and mental health facilities. The government did not restrict persons with disabilities from voting or otherwise participating in civil affairs and made some accommodations during elections to allow for persons with disabilities to vote.
There was a Department of Disability Coordination in the Office of the President to assist persons with disabilities. The Department of Labor in the Ministry of Employment, Labor Productivity, and Skills Development is responsible for protecting the rights of persons with disabilities in the labor force and investigating claims of discrimination. Individuals may also bring cases directly to the Industrial Court. The government funded NGOs that provided rehabilitation services and supported small-scale projects for workers with disabilities.
The government does not recognize any particular group or tribe as indigenous. The eight tribes of the Tswana group, which speak a mutually intelligible dialect of Setswana, have been politically dominant since independence and officially recognized by law, granting them permanent membership in the House of Chiefs. Former president Festus Mogae established a commission of inquiry in 2000 in response to complaints from minority tribes that the constitution was discriminatory. The resulting constitutional amendments enabled the recognition of tribes other than the eight Tswana tribes; however, the United Nations expressed concern the changes merely put in place new discriminatory rules and the constitution continues to accord preferred status to the Tswana tribes.
On May 26, the government formally recognized as a tribe the Wayeyi, which had first applied for recognition in 2008.
English and Setswana are the only officially recognized languages, a policy human rights organizations and minority tribes criticized particularly with regard to education, where some children were forced to learn in their nonnative language. In a January report from a 2014 visit, the UN special rapporteur in the field of cultural rights noted that this policy disadvantaged children in remote areas with limited exposure to Setswana.
An estimated 50,000 to 60,000 persons belong to one of the many scattered, diverse tribal groups known collectively as Basarwa or San. The Basarwa constituted approximately 3 percent of the population and are culturally and linguistically distinct from most other residents. The law prohibits discrimination against the Basarwa with respect to employment, housing, health services, and cultural practices; however, the Basarwa remained marginalized economically and politically and generally did not have access to their traditional land. The Basarwa continued to be geographically isolated, had limited access to education, lacked adequate political representation, and some members were not fully aware of their civil rights. NGOs have previously reported forced labor of Basarwa–including adults and children–on private farms and cattle posts.
While the government respected the 2006 High Court ruling on a suit filed by 189 Basarwa regarding their forced relocation, it continued to interpret the ruling narrowly, allowing only the 189 actual applicants and their spouses and minor children to return to the CKGR. Many of the Basarwa and their supporters continued to object to the government’s interpretation of the court’s ruling. Negotiations between Basarwa representatives and the government regarding residency and hunting rights stalled after a separate court ruling provided the right to access water through boreholes.
Government officials maintained the resettlement program was voluntary and necessary to facilitate the delivery of public services, provide socioeconomic development opportunities to the Basarwa, and minimize human impact on wildlife. In 2012 the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues approved a set of nine draft recommendations addressing the impact of land seizures and disenfranchisement of indigenous people. In 2013 attorneys for the Basarwa filed a High Court case in which the original complainants from the 2006 CKGR case appealed to the government for unrestricted access (i.e., without permits) to the CKGR for their children and relatives.
A British citizen affiliated with NGO Survival International, who serves as an attorney for some Basarwa groups, was on a list of individuals from visa waiver countries who must apply for a visa to enter the country, impeding the group’s ability to respond to legal and advocacy matters involving the Basarwa.
There were no government programs directly addressing discrimination against the Basarwa. With the exception of the 2006 court ruling, there were no demarcated cultural lands.
A number of NGOs made efforts to promote the rights of the Basarwa or to help provide economic opportunities, but such programs had limited impact. Survival International, along with other independent organizations, continued to criticize the government decision to allow mining exploration in the CKGR; mining operations in the area expanded during the year. The NGOs argued diamond exploration in the CKGR would have a significant negative impact on the lives and environment of the Basarwa.
The government previously charged Basarwa with unlawful possession of hunted carcasses. In 2014 five Basarwa filed a lawsuit against the minister of environment, natural resource conservation, and tourism over the hunting ban in the CKGR; the case was pending at year’s end.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law does not explicitly criminalize consensual same-sex sexual activity, but it includes language criminalizing some aspects of same-sex sexual activity. What the law describes as “unnatural acts” are criminalized with a penalty of up to seven years’ imprisonment, and there was widespread belief this was directed toward LGBTI persons. On August 31, the Gaborone Magistrate Court sentenced a man to three and one-half years’ imprisonment, two of them suspended, for committing “unnatural acts.” The man was among 580 prisoners pardoned by President Khama as part of the 50th Independence Day celebrations in September. There were no reports police targeted persons suspected of same-sex sexual activity. LGBTI-rights organizations claimed there were incidents of violence, societal harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The victims of such incidents seldom filed police reports, primarily due to stigma but occasionally as a result of overt intimidation.
Public meetings of LGBTI advocacy groups and debates on LGBTI issues occurred without disruption or interference. In March the Court of Appeals upheld a 2014 High Court ruling ordering the government to formally register LeGaBiBo (Lesbian, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana), a group that advocates for LGBTI rights. LeGaBiBo has since participated in government-sponsored events.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Discrimination against persons with HIV/AIDS continued to be a problem, including in the workplace. The government funded community organizations that ran antidiscrimination and public awareness programs. The Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS continued to advocate for an HIV employment law to curb discrimination in the workplace. A 2016 report by an international donor noted that HIV-related stigma and discrimination had increased according to statistical surveys completed between 2008 and 2013, with women particularly susceptible to stigmatization.