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Judicial CP - June 2007

Corpun file 19273


Mmegi, Gaborone, 4 June 2007

Molepolole Headman Justifies Woman's Flogging

By Lekopanye Mooketsi

A Molepolole headman who sentenced a married woman to flogging in a "kangaroo court" said he had no misgivings about the decision. In fact, the headman is proud of his action for instilling order and says this is something he would do again.

Batshwentse Mosarwa, Headman

In the case that was heard last month in the village, the woman was ordered to undress and she was given four lashes on her back by men.

According to the country's laws, women should not be subjected to corporal punishment.

Even the whipping of men on their bare back was banned because the punishment is brutal.

At the customary courts, only male culprits are lashed on their buttocks.

Headmen in village wards are not supposed to preside over cases but they should arbitrate in disputes and family problems.

However, they do not have judicial powers to sentence people to jail or even administer corporal punishment as this can only be done at the customary court.

But Molepolole, being a "village of stories", their case was an exception.

The defiant Headman, Batshwentse Mosarwa said he was applying the Setswana tradition of instilling discipline.

The headman said he has "traditional powers" to sentence wayward people to be flogged. He insisted that the woman deserved the degrading punishment because she had insulted her mother.

Mosarwa said he "sentenced" the woman, Othapile Masilo to four slashes on her back because she had insulted her mother by telling her that she should sleep with her husband.

He said this was after her mother admonished her about her alleged infidelity.

"When her mother asked her why she deserted her husband for another man, she told her that you can go and sleep with him if you like," the headman claimed.

"Is that not an insult? Is she not supposed to be punished for insulting her mother?  In our culture a child cannot tell her mother to sleep with her husband," he said.

Mosarwa said it is a taboo in Setswana culture to insult one's parents. He said if ever a child swears at his or her parents, he or she deserves the most severe punishment.

"Even you, if you could insult your mother or father, we could sentence you to corporal punishment," Mosarwa said, pointing at this reporter. He said the woman's husband and her mother testified during the "trial".

Mosarwa said he is not aware that the decision that he had taken was wrong.  He said it is not an offence in Setswana culture to flog women.

"Whether you are married or not we could punish you if you insult your parents," he said.

The woman now has taken the matter to the Taung Customary Court in Gaborone.  She said she was ordered to be flogged after she reported to the headman that her husband was neglecting the family.

However, she ended up being the accused as her mother and husband levelled charges against her.

The Paramount Chief of Bakwena, Kgosi Kgari who was attending the Ntlo ya Dikgosi session in Gaborone, told Monitor that they are going to address this matter.

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