There is too much Online Gender Based Violence (OGBV) perpetrated across different online platforms, yet very few cases are reported to the authorities.
Botswana Police Deputy Director, Department of Cyber Forensics, Nonofo Dichabe said at the Roundtable discussion on OGBV this Tuesday that they also monitor activities of the internet and often times identify cases of OGBV that go unreported.
He explained that in some cases they take the initiative to follow up on striking issues of OGBV that need their attention and intervention. Unfortunately, if they are successful in connecting with the victim, most prefer not to press charges against the perpetrators.
“Some victims take a decision not to pursue such cases because perpetrators are their intimate partners, family or friends,” he said, adding that the lack of reporting of cases of cyber bullying or offensive electronic communication where spats take place on social media often fizzle out on their own.
But the danger is that some of these cases create lifelong effects like mental illness on victims, something that is quite saddening, according to him.
He said the low rate of reporting is so bad that in 11 months, only two cases of cyber harassment were reported. The difficulty in dealing with such cases is also made worse by the fact that there are glaring limitations regarding laws that govern cyber security.
He explained that for example, there is no law that specifically addresses OGBV, unlike cyber harassment, stalking and child pornography that are covered under the Cybercrime and Computer related
He also highlighted that lack of evidence is also their greatest concern because perpetrators often delete any material that would have been posted online to destroy evidence.
Another challenge is that sometimes police themselves do not know how to classify online crimes. In worst-case scenarios, police cannot agree with victims on what the offence is.
Such victims would even insist on what the offence is and what should happen to the offender. “Victims have a right to report further if they feel like the type of service they received when reporting such cases was inadequate because we have service standards that guide our processes,” Dichabe said.
According to Dichabe, Botswana Police Service is capable and well capacitated to deal with cybercrime. However, because it is technically complex and legally intricate, the technical and legal systems bring complex challenges for investigating cybercrime.
Director, Department of Gender and Child Protection, Botswana Police Goitseone Ngono admits that since the law has been enacted not so long ago, they are continuously training their officers on existing laws.
“There are still pockets of those who can still not appropriate a charge to some of the reports they receive,” she said. Ngono also added that there is a lot of ignorance also on the part of members of the public.
Botswana Police on the other hand has setup an institutional framework to deal with issues relating to cybercrime including enforcing legislation including the Cybercrime and Computer related Crimes Act, the Penal Code, Electronic Records (Evidence) Act, Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority Act and Data Protection Act.
Gomolemo Rasesigo of the Child Protection and GBV Specialist at UNICEF Botswana said there is an emerging trend of high number of cyber crimes targeting young children. UNICEF works closely with Police and other child-care organisations to safeguard the rights of children.
Board member of the Gender Commission, Dr Morena Rankopo said there is need for public education that will include political leaders, dikgosi, religious leaders and members of the public about laws that exist.
“Just like during the time when HIV/AIDS was a threat, awareness campaigns and public education need to be carried out to ensure that people have information. Even legislators cannot come up with policies and laws about issues they do not understand,” Dr Rankopo said.
He added that public education could be the solution to the problem because gender inequality is a product of culture socialisation from family level, neighbourhood, community and country at large.
“We should socialise our children to be gender sensitive at a very young age,” he said, adding that men and women, boys and girls are critical in public discourse.
He believes that there is need for total transformation in schools, churches, communities, and social clubs to address gender inequality.