Intro: Posted here are some excerpts from various sources of information about the LGBT struggle for rights and recognition in Botswana, It is a frustrating effort with government blockages and homophobia along the way. However, despite much difficult news there are a couple of good recent stories posted here at the end: love conquers all.
Being homosexual in Botswana
As in many African countries, it’s not easy here–but it’s not awful. Homosexuality is regarded as wrong and sinful by conseratives and it’s technically a crime punishable with a possible jail sentence if convicted. Section 164 Penal Code defines it as “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature…, carnal knowledge of animal or permits carnal knowledge of him/her against the order of nature…” However, the law is virtualy never enforced and there are no goon squads out looking for gays to bash.
Nevertheless LGBTI people of Botswana are vulnerable to discrimination, religious aggression and verbal abuse by society and sometimes even by their own families.
Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana
LeGaBiBo (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana) is the first LGBTI (Lesbians,Gays, Bisexuals, Transgendered and Intersexed) organization in Botswana. It was founded by Ditshwanelo, the Center for Human Rights in 1998 as a project.
There have been attempts to register LeGaBiBo with the Registrar of Societies, Ministry of Labour and Home affairs but to no avail. The main objection by the registrar officials is that they see registering such an organisation as an act of aiding and abetting the commission of an illegal act as defined under the section 164 Penal Code.
Nevertheless, the group presses on and works with international network LGBTI organizations to cooperate together and gradually overcome the obstacles homosexuals still encounter s. “WE EXIST!! WE ARE AFRICAN and we want our voices to be heard!,” declared one activist.
Some important events for LGBT life in Botswana:
-May 26, 2004 The government of Botswana issued a bold vision statement for the nation called Vision 2016. It promises all citizens safety, security, freedom of expression and a tolerant nation, but how will this help LGBT people if they don’t lobby around their rights within the framework of the vision.
-Feb 27 2008 Women from 14 African countries gathered in Namibia’s capital Windhoek in August 2004 to develop the Coalition of African Lesbians. Lesbian organisations and a number of individual women from Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia are members of the organisation. “Our main goal is that lesbian and homosexuality can no longer be seen as a criminal offense,” the group’s director and conference spokeswoman Fikile Vilakazi told Reuters. “You should not be arrested and charged for how you use your own body.”
-Dec 13, 2008 in Botswana, homosexuality is considered illegal and LeGaBiBo, the first organization advocating for homosexual result has been in existence for almost 10 years now, but the organization has not been registered with the Registrar of Societies under the pretext that registering such an organisation is an act of aiding and abetting the commission of an illegal act as defined under Section 164 of the Penal Code, whose effect criminalises homosexuality.
-By December 2008 around 145,000 people had been enrolled on antiretroviral treatment through a network of 81 clinics. However sexual minorities are still marginalised and homosexuality is outlawed despite findings that indicate a higher HIV prevalence among MSM compared to the general population. MSM are a high-risk group for HIV infection and human rights abuses.
-May 21, 2009 As the country prepares for its presidential elections in October, government has agreed to meet two members of Lesbian, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) in court on their demand to have section 164 of the Penal Code, which criminalises homosexual conduct, declared unconstitutional. Prisca Mogapi, a transman and Caine Youngman who is gay, through their representative Uyapo Ndadi, served the Registry of Society department with a statutory notice last month.
-Jul 2009 Sex workers are subjected to widespread human rights abuses, including police violence and unequal access to health care, in Botswana, Namibia, and South Africa. Despite enormous challenges, sex workers are organizing to protect their rights and demand an end to violence and discrimination.
-Dec 11, 2009 The spread of HIV-Aids in Botswana continues unabated due to government’s refusal to accept the fact that same sex relationships contribute to the high rate of infection. It has emerged that the Attorney General’s chambers instructed the National Aids Coordinating Agency to disregard the findings and recommendations of a research conducted by the Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV-Aids (BONELA) regarding appropriate interventions for people involved in same sex relationships.
-Around 300,000 people are living with HIV in Botswana and the government has committed to provide universal access to antiretroviral treatment and to achieve zero new infections by 2016
– Feb 10, 2010 Health study about gay men: “these are hidden populations of men, currently only accessible for study and prevention programming through sexual and social networks with other MSM. The study served as an assessment of human rights contexts for MSM in these countries. The results are a powerful reminder of the level of stigma, discrimination and human rights abuses that these men face in their everyday lives, including being denied housing and healthcare, being afraid to walk down the streets of one’s community, or being afraid to seek health care services.”
-Feb 26, 2010 Skipper Mogapi of LeGaBiBo announced a march to raise awareness about the plight of sexual minorities’ difficulty accessing proper health care in Botswana.
-March 3 2010 The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) made a presentation at the National AIDS Council (NAC) on findings of an assessment of access to health services by the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans-gendered community as well as a study on men who have sex with men (MSM) in May this year.
-March 31, 2010 Botswana’s Ministry of Health intervened to block US funding for HIV/AIDS prevention efforts targeted at men who have sex with men (MSM) and their partners because homosexuality is illegal in Botswana.
-Uyapo Ndadi, the Executive Director at Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDs (BONELA) planned to advocate for the decriminalization of homosexuality in Botswana. He is fighting it out with government in court over section 164 of the Penal Code, which criminalises same sex relationships.
-May 20, 2010 In an unprecedented move, the government met with representatives of gays, lesbians and sex workers, in a development that could signal official acceptance of the existence of these groups. In a coup for NACA and the advocacy group that has been campaigning for these groups to come out from the cold, the Botswana Network Of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) led the Lesbians, Gay and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) and the Research Triangle Institute (TRI) to a meeting of the National Aids Council on June 4 to discuss research findings on these groups. TRI represents the interests of sex workers.
-Jan 17, 2011 A small improvement for GLBT citizens happened following registration of Rainbow Identity Association (RIA), a trans and intersex oriented organisation, formed in 2007 after founder, Skipper Mogapi, realized marginalization of these gender identities among the general lesbian, gay and bisexual movement in that country. However, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), the first LGBTI group in Botswana, continues to struggle to get registered. Some in the government say that registering such an organisation will be tantamount to registering an organisation of criminals. Mogapi said the challenges he faced were delays of up to two years as the application was referred to the Department of Social Services from the registrar of societies, a slow tedious bureaucratic process.
February 25, 2011 An historic event happened when the Botswana Human Rights organization (BONELA) and the Botswana LGBT organization (LeGaBiBo) filed a law suit in High Court against the government claiming the law criminalizing homosexual behavior is unconstitutional. The first time the anti-gay law has ever been formally challenged.
Nov 26, 2010
Despite all this news, here is a happy ending:
Lesbian Love Story
A brave lesbian couple who met through the pages of their favourite newspaper, will today carve their names in the history of civil rights in this country. Onkemetse Pule, 26, from Mahalapye and Lawrence Kwataka, 24, of Serowe met through the popular ‘Lets Get Personal’ dating service in The Voice.
They are soul mates, head over heels in love and courageous enough to have agreed to this interview and become the first lesbian couple in Botswana to publicly declare their love. They have been in the relationship for ten months and as they both say: “Have never been happier.” Now they want the world to know that they are two women who have found the ideal partner in one another.
Read full story: http://www.thevoicebw.com/2010/11/26/glad-to-be-gay/