If you find yourself in Botswana, in the middle of a debate that is impossible for your to win you’re lucky, because here, even if you have the most ludicrous position that leaves you standing on what you wish was shaky ground but in fact is air, you can pull out the always handy culture card and everything will magically go silent in your favour. Saying “it’s our culture” in Botswana is equivalent to saying “shut up- I win” because culture is this big, solid block that cannot be altered nor disrespected because then you are “influenced by foreign cultures” or a “neo-colonialist”.
I read last night’s Mmegi Monitor and I am positive steam was coming out my ears. The article was covering a workshop being run by a group called True Men being held for councillors and traditional leaders. The topic was on gender violence. This is all good. I like discussions about gender violence and I love that men are taking the lead. Good. Good. Good.
So where does it go wrong? Well one hotspot, the customary court president for Tati Town, Margaret Ludo Mosojane decided she had to put her two cents in (Yes -I did say SHE). Ms Mosojane stood up to educate the gathering about marital rape. According to her, it does not exist. If you signed on the dotted line you agreed that your body belongs to your husband. According to the Monitor, this champion of women’s rights told the group, “If he touches me, and I just tell him I do not want to do it, I am breaching the contract. You have to give it to him whenever he wants to have sex with you because you agreed that is what you will do.” Sound ludicrous? Don’t argue it’s the culture. (shut up- she wins) Nice to know she's up north there acting as presiding officer over domestic disputes- comforting.
Another infuriating topic of debate is the Children’s Act. Botswana can’t sign on since Batswana say putting the father’s name on the birth certificate is against culture. (shut up- they win). This crazed line of thinking starts with the always repeated factoid that there are more women than men in Botswana. How sad it would be if some women would be left out of all of the fun, so Batswana men, married or not, must take up their patriotic duty and spread their seed. So babies are born to all and sundry with complicated personal histories often involving a blame-less train that ran over an inordinate number of fathers. (No wonder there are less men than women- for godsake get off the tracks!)
So now these crazy, foreign influenced people want to do the unthinkable and write the father’s name on the birth certificate. Can’t happen, not in Botswana, it goes against Setswana culture. (shut up- they win)