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Key findings
  • Six in 10 Batswana (59%) consider gender-based violence (GBV) the most important women’s-rights issue that the government and society must address.
  • Half (50%) of citizens say violence against women and girls is common in their community, including 23% who say it is “very common.”
  • Nine out of 10 Batswana (90%) say it is “never” justified for a man to use physical force to discipline his wife.
  • More than four in 10 respondents (42%) say it is “somewhat likely” or “very likely” that a woman who reports being a victim of GBV will be criticised, harassed, or shamed by others in the community.
  • More than eight in 10 Batswana (85%) say GBV is a criminal matter that requires law enforcement involvement, while only 14% see it as a private matter to be resolved within the family.

Botswana lacks official statistics on gender-based violence (GBV) (UN Women, 2023), as its national demographic survey does not include measures of partner violence or sexual violence against women (Statistics Botswana, 2018). The 2017 Botswana National Relationship Study found that 37% of women had experienced GBV, including 28% during the previous 12 months (Republic of Botswana, 2018). The smaller 2011 Gender Based Violence Indicator Study placed the estimate of lifetime GBV victims almost twice as high (67% of women), and reported that almost one in four women had suffered sexual harassment at school or work, on public transport, or in the context of health services (

rates are likely conservative estimates, as victimisation by GBV is often under-reported due to stigmatisation.

Botswana is a signatory to international conventions that promote the rights and well-being of women and the elimination of GBV, including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development. The country’s Constitution provides for equal rights and non-discrimination, and a number of policies have been developed to address GBV. The Domestic Violence Act of 2008 recommends safety shelters to assist victims of GBV, but there are only five safety shelters in the country, run by two nongovernmental organisations.

Some high-profile incidents have tested the government’s commitment to ending GBV. In 2018, for example, citizen petitions failed to persuade President Mokgweetsi Masisi to relieve Magang Ngaka Ngaka of his duties as minister of Nationality, Immigration and Gender Affairs – responsible for anti-GBV efforts – despite the minister’s violent public brawl with his wife (, 2018).

More recently, the government has highlighted its commitment to the fight against GBV through policy statements, legal reviews, and implementation of tougher penalties for sexual offences (Republic of Botswana, 2018). Botswana signed on to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whose SDG5 calls for gender equality and empowerment and the elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. According to the Republic of Botswana’s (2022) Voluntary National Review report, the nation has developed protocols and service standards for prevention and management of GBV for health care providers, a handbook and training curriculum for the police on effective responses to GBV, and GBV training of traditional leaders, police, social workers, and teachers. In November 2020, the government launched 25 GBV courts to ensure trained legal counsel and judges to manage these cases and ensure timely justice for victims of GBV.

This dispatch reports on a special survey module included in the Afrobarometer Round 9 (2021/2023) questionnaire to explore Africans’ experiences and perceptions of gender- based violence. (For survey findings on gender equality, see Mooketsane, Molefe, Faiaz, & Raj, 2023.)

Findings show that Batswana view GBV as the most important women’s-rights issue that the government and society must address, overwhelmingly reject the use of physical force to discipline women, consider domestic violence a criminal matter rather than a family affair, are confident that the police treat reported GBV cases seriously.

However, many report that violence against women and girls is a common occurrence and that women who report GBV crimes are likely to be criticised, harassed, or shamed by others in the community.

Keneilwe Sadie Mooketsane

Keneilwe is a research associate of Star Awards

Wilford Molefe

Wilford Molefe is the co-national investigator for Botswana.

Mir Muhtadi Faiaz

Mir Muhtadi Faiaz is a researcher

Namratha Rao

Namratha Rao is a program manager with the Center on Gender Equity and Health, University of California San Diego.

Anita Raj

Anita Raj is a professor of medicine, professor of social sciences, and the director of the Center on Gender Equity and Health.