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‘Homosexuality is unAfrican’

Keletso Thobega

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The homosexual debate is a contentious issue that often leaves tempers flaring. And this was the case at the Gaborone High Court last week when a bench of three judges Abednego Tafa, Jennifer Dube and Micheal Leburu, listened to arguments in the landmark case as the gay community continues to fight for national recognition and for Botswana government to revise the Constitution and decriminalise section 164 and 167, which refers to same-sex as unnatural sexual acts.

Advocacy group LEGAGIBO with the support of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre is challenging Botswana laws on homosexuality. Advocate Sydney Pilane is representing Attorney General in the matter. After arriving late in court from an earlier engagement at Lobatse High Court, Pilane stirred controversy when he argued that homosexuality is unAfrican and does not correlate with the traditional values of Batswana. “As things stand, Botswana is being forced to abandon its moral values. The courts should be conservative and measured,” he said. He also said that there was also no substantial evidence to indicate that Batswana’s views on homosexuality had softened in the past years.

He cited the Kanane case of 2004 before the Court of Appeal, which indicated that Batswana were hardened against acceptance and tolerance of homosexuals, adding that Penal Code provisions could be revisited when the time was right. He argued that there is no substantial evidence to back claims that Batswana’s attitudes towards homosexuality have changed, and that there is also no evidence that gays have been discriminated against. Pilane, who had a tongue-in-cheek demeanour, asked what was so important about ‘sex’ that homosexuals could “not do it” without upsetting the laws, saying that they were conducting their affairs behind closed doors anyways.

Pilane, who appeared to find humour in the proceedings, also claimed that gays in Botswana were not harassed like in other countries and wondered if people should rush to courts for every small gripe. Much to the amusement of the audience, he illustrated that people had mocked him about the size of his head since he was a kid and even in adulthood, to the extent that some created social media memes out of him but he did not cry about it. He also stated that gays would still get HIV and not use condoms even if homosexuality was decriminalised, in reference to a Ministry of Health report that stipulated that gays did not receive access to open health care since homosexuality is illegal. Pilane further wondered whether legalising homosexuality indicated to the public that there was room to change the law to accommodate “unnatural behaviour,” rhetorically asking: “Should those who partake in bestiality (sleep with animals) also come here and demand that laws be changed to accommodate them?”

Tshiamo Rantao, representing LEGAGIBO shot down Pilane’s arguments and said that he (Pilane) was peddling his own personal views. Rantao said the AG failed to prove that there is no evidence to repeal the law. Rantao made reference to the Rammonge case and the Yogyakarta Principles, arguing that sexual orientation is a matter of feelings and not choice. He argued that there is overwhelming research that there is widespread violence against homosexuals in Botswana. Rantao said that the question should be what the law is doing in people’s bedrooms to the extent that it defines what is an acceptable or unnatural sexual act.

Meanwhile, Gosego Lekgowe, also representing LEGAGIBO noted that there should be determination of whether Section 164 violates Constitutional provisions, adding that government should ascertain what the crime is about being sexually attracted to someone of the same sex. He noted that the right to dignity and privacy are rights that the Court must consider, as they are fundamental to the case, adding that there is a need to protect homosexuals, who are a prejudiced minority.

In May last year, a gay man filed a petition with the Gaborone High Court, arguing that sections 164 and 167 are unconstitutional and impede on gay rights, their access to appropriate health care, and social security. Judgment in the matter will be handed down on 11 June 2019.

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FREE AT LAST: LGBTI persons celebrate

Yvonne Mooka

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CELEBRATION TIME: The LGBT community celebrated the historic ruling on same sex romance this Tuesday

Thapelo Matshameko, a transgender woman who last year was attacked at Trekkers night club in Gaborone is over the moon about the High Court ruling that overturned a law that criminalised same sex relations.

A trans-woman is a woman who was assigned male at birth. In response to the ruling, she told The Midweek Sun that even though she has had it tough before with people calling her ‘Brazen’ and to stop behaving like a woman, she is now happy that the law recognises that they exist. She said that Batswana are now becoming tolerant towards Lesbians Gays Bisexual Transgender and Intersex persons.

“Recently I went out for dinner with my bae, and I came all the way from my house wearing a dress. People that know me loved it and my boyfriend loved it even more,” she says, adding that the verdict will also help other LGBTI persons that are in the closet to come out.

In a previous interview Metshameko pleaded for assistance from members of the public to help her do a surgery that would make her a complete woman. For Motswakgakala Sithole also known as Motswafere in music circles, the ruling shows that Botswana is one step closer to gay marriages.

“Thank you to all the visible gay people. We take punches for those hiding and those shaming us for being visible and exercising our rights. You guys attended court cases with pride and you have carried us to freedom,” he said.

He also thanked Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), lawyers in the case, the media, and friends of the LGBTI community for their support. Phio Kenosi who identifies as trans non-binary asexual woma-romantic, (romantically attracted to the feminine essence), was also ecstatic.

“It is obviously showing that we are moving in a new direction that is positive and inclusive towards sexual and gender minority,” he said.

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Wame – a little einstein in the making

Irene Shone

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LITTLE EISTEIN: Wame Kangumbe

Wame Petit Kangumbe, 12, is an Optometrist in the making.

Kangumbe envisions taking Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) to the next level by inventing something scientific in the future.The standard 7 pupil at Ratsie Setlhako Primary School in Palapye impressed everyone during the BIUST 5th STEM Festival and Research and Innovation Symposium with her sharp answers during the fest.

The little Scientist believes that the entire country should embrace science and do more experiments, to find out more about our physical environment and shed dependency on foreign countries in terms of Science and Engineering.

Her secret to relating with different topics so well, is research and more research. “I like researching. We have Wi-Fi at home, and so I often use my mother’s phone to type different topics and interact with how everything is related. I always prepare for the next lesson through researching,” she said.

She said the poverty in Africa can only be eliminated through STEM. “If everyone could take interest in STEM, we would go further in terms of uplifting the status of our economies as African countries,” she said.

She urged her peers to believe in themselves and be serious about their education. “When you write down your notes in class, make an application of what you want out of them. Everyone’s life is in their own hands,” she advised.

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