'The Go-between of Liaisons': The Social Dynamics of Mobile-phone Text Messaging and Implications for Intimate Partner Based Violence in Botswana

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Odireleng M Jankey
Refilwe P Sinkamba
Barbara Ntombi Ngwenya


Access to mobile telecommunication networks has become a necessity rather than a luxury for millions of people worldwide. In contemporary Botswana the mobile phone technology growth rate has been phenomenal with subscriptions exceeding 100% teledensity since 2009. Text messaging is a popular non-voice application to reach people who are unable or unwilling to talk face-to-face.  Although text messaging has grown in popularity as a form of communication technology, the social impact of this form of communication especially in intimate partner relationships has not been systematically documented in Botswana. The overall objective of this paper is to identify and analyse social dynamics emerging from text messaging in the context of gender based violence in intimate relationships in Botswana. A total of 33 stories around text messaging were collected from digital archives of three national newspaper publications. The stories (data pieces) precipitated one or more reactions which were coded. Inter-coding between three researchers generated eight themes/patterns from text messages. About 25% of the text messaging stories made reference to incidences of physical violence; 23% alluded to invasion of privacy and or personal space; 13.6% related to the use of text messaging to manage multiple relations, 8.4% to emotional/psychological abuse, the destruction of property/handset and intensified romance account for 7.3% of the messages and the remaining stories alluded to either avoidance of face-to-face interactions or emotional absence. The results of the study provide both favourable and unfavourable implications of the use of text messaging in intimate relationships. Given Botswana’s high mobile phone density there is a need to create public awareness of the potential contribution of communication technologies to intimate partner violence (IPV) and gender based violence (GBV) in Botswana.

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Author Biography

Refilwe P Sinkamba, Department of Social Work, University of Botswana