Recent remarks made by some politicians present enough proof that violence and discrimination towards the lesbians, gays, bisexual, trans*diverse, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) community is fuelled by some community leaders.
These are the sentiments shared by Media Advocacy and Communications Officer for LEGABIBO Matlhogonolo Samsam following media reports that some politicians were against the recent decriminalisation of same sex relations. In a statement, the LEGABIBO officer expressed “grave disappointment in the disrespectful comments made by some of the political figures” as published in The Midweek Sun. In the article entitled: “Homophobic Leaders! – Opposition politicians don’t want gays, lesbians,” Independent Parliamentary candidate in Gaborone Central, Jafta Radibe is quoted as saying that “homosexuality is not a Setswana culture and that the President of the Republic of Botswana owes the nation an explanation how he came to legalize same sex relations.”
Radibe had complained that President Mokgweetsi Masisi did not consult Batswana before legalising homosexuality, adding that homosexuality is not Setswana culture and that the president owes the nation an explanation how he came to legalise same sex relations.
“The Law didn’t go through Parliament. It went through backdoor. Batswana need to know how it came about,” he said, adding that Batswana are still shocked.According to Radibe, men should not sleep with other men. “When a man sleeps with another man, his anus gets loose and in the long term, he will have to wear diapers. O nna segole,” he said.The Parliamentary candidate had earlier expressed disgust at government on radio during parliamentary debates, saying legalising same sex relations was a huge mistake.
He still stuck by his words during the interview with The Midweek Sun that he is against homosexuality and is never going to change his stance on the matter.“Government should have just let gays do their things the way they have been doing it without any legal recognition. It doesn’t make any sense.“When a man sleeps with another man, where is reproduction in there? But again I hear some of them became gays because of the love of money,” he stated.His take is that any man who has feelings for another man needs help and counselling. He also believes that homosexuality is a spiritual attack and that gays initiate others into it.
The way he sees it, gays should seek deliverance from churches. “I know a lot of men that were once gay but have since stopped after being delivered. Now they love women too much,” he said.
Radibe is not the only one from the opposition who shuns gays. Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) triplets Ford, Thaga and Mopedi also mocked homosexuals last weekend at Tshekedi Khama’s launch warning the MC that ‘if he voted for the BDP, he is going to marry another man.’ They would also point to another woman in the crowd, telling her she would be made to marry another woman should she vote for the BDP and Masisi.
Earlier this year, BPF President Biggie Butale also lamented that Botswana was turning into Sodom and Gomorrah because of legalising homosexuality.“My personal opinion is that we are on our way to Sodom and Gomorrah. It’s a terrible decision. We have opened a pandora box,” he told The Midweek Sun back then.His take was that the court ruling is going to open floodgates for other undesirable things such as gay marriages, gays adopting children and gay parades.However it remains to be seen what will happen next as the Attorney General has appealed the court ruling in the case against Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), which decriminalised same sex relations.
In response, Samsam notes that “sexual diversity has been with us since the beginning of time and one identifying as LGBTIQ is natural; what is not a part of our Setswana culture is hate, disrespect and exclusion of Batswana. Secondly, the decision made by the High Court of Botswana to decriminalise consensual same sex-sexual activities is a ruling which was made independent of the Botswana Government – the judiciary system of Botswana is independent and just. Mr Radibe claiming that ‘the law didn’t go through parliament and went through a backdoor’ undermines the legitimacy and independence of the Courts. The judiciary plays a vital role in ensuring that laws are followed and constitutional rights of all Batswana are protected.
“Community leaders need to acknowledge the diversity of our society and that all Batswana are entitled to enjoy their fundamental rights to Freedoms of Expression and Identity and the Rights to Liberty and Sexual Autonomy. Furthermore, by claiming that people “become gay because of the [their] love for money” and “that gays initiate others” is misleading and only contributes to the misconceptions about LGBTQ persons. There is no such thing as recruiting and initiating people into homosexuality. Lastly, religion is not to be used as a weapon of hate towards LGBTIQ individuals, but needs to be used to promote inclusion, love and Botho!
LEGABIBO wishes to caution political members to refrain from using the LGBTIQ community to decampaign other politicians, but rather one should be able to stand on their own merit, quality and worth. Politicians need to bear in mind the fundamental principles of democracy, human rights and the respect for rule of law and refrain from making utterances that will compromise the safety and security of others. A true democratic and progressive leader should promote non-discrimination, diversity, dignity and respect for other all Batswana. LEGABIBO encourages all Batswana to practice their democratic right to vote this coming elections.
Youth lament slow pace towards ICPD commitments
Young people representing Botswana at the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD25) in Nairobi, Kenya last week have expressed disappointment at the slow pace at which governments are moving towards achieving ICPD25 ideals.
Trevor Oahile, a youth advocate and student at the University of Botswana participated at the Nairobi Summit to highlight on Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) of men and boys.
Oahile hosts a radio show sponsored by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Don’t Get It Twisted on Yarona FM. The show deals with issues that affect boys and men. Oahile participated in a panel discussion at the Summit on the involvement of men and boys in accelerating the ICPD promise.
He is of the view that countries needs to work together to end violence that is perpetuated by harmful gender norms that are antagonistic to progress towards the ideals of the ICPD agenda. “Botswana government and private sector are still challenged to invest a lot of money into implementing their commitments,” Oahile said, adding that Comprehensive Sexual Education on the other hand has to be rolled out to every school in the country.
“We also acknowledge that it is important to avoid stereotypes that impact decisions that people make. Men and boys often avoid certain services because they are known to be for girls and women,” Oahile said. Millicent Sethaile was at the Summit as a youth ambassador from an organisation called Her Voice, which funds and offers grants to smaller organisations that advocate for SRHR in communities. In her view the summit was significant because it was an opportunity for countries including Botswana to make commitments to fulfill the unfinished business of the ICPD made 25 years ago.
“What struck me the most is that I realised that Botswana has a long way to go to achieve the commitments she set for herself.”Sethaile also observed that the four commitments including to strengthen access to family planning, the reduction of maternal deaths, reduction of Gender Based Violence, provision of quality, timely and disaggregated data are activities that were already in the pipeline and have been discussed before. “I believe we now have to come up with actionable items that we can work on so that we can effectively deal with current challenges.”
For 18 year old University student Michelle Simon, the Nairobi Summit was a reality check, an opportunity to reflect and map the way forward.
“I realised that there are so many challenges, especially in Africa concerning SRHR,” Simon said. She also realised that Botswana has a lot of catching up to do to implement the commitments of the ICPD. “I also realised that issues including youth in power were left out.” Botho Mahlunge on the other hand comes back from the Summit with a conclusion that there are a lot of predicaments that young people find themseles in across the African continent including GBV and teenage pregnancy.
Programmes need to be intensified to ensure implementation. Mahlunge is also of the view that there is minimum youth engagement on issues that affet them the most. “Young people are tired of always convening about the same issues. It’s time to see the outcomes of Summits and Conferences,” Mahlunge said. She advised the youth to also be willing to engage when the oppotunity avails itself and to take up programmes that have been set to help them. Mahlunge said that failure to educate our young people on sexuality “is the reason so many girls are getting pregnant and infected with HIV.”
She said the continued exclusion of young people in rural areas from sexual and reproductive health and rights discussion is also to blame for the prevailing state of affairs. “Young people in rural areas are completely vulnerable. They are so far removed from the little information and services available to young people in urban areas,” Mahlunge observed.
Safe communities for our women and girls – Moalosi
Gender Based Violence (GBV) has been identified as one of the critical issues that impede women, girls and men from fully enjoying their human rights and unleashing their potential. Delivering his State of the National Address (SONA) on Monday, President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi said government is concerned about the rising statistics of those affected.
The National Relationship Study of 2018 revealed that 37 percent of women and 21 percent of men have suffered some form of violence in their lifetime, which occurred within Intimate Partner Relationships.
To address this problem, President Masisi says government will intensify the implementation of the National Strategy Towards Ending GBV. The Strategy focuses on the comprehensive care and support of GBV survivors; the Prevention of new GBV incidences; Strengthening national capacity to address GBV; Improving efficiency and effectiveness of the coordination and management of the national GBV response; and Strategic information and knowledge management on GBV.
Just last week, Botswana Non-Governmental Organisations represented at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, committed to ensuring that all is done to end GBV.CEO of Botswana Gender Based Violence Prevention and Support Centre, Lorato Moalosi who was presenting on behalf of Botswana NGOs said having reflected on the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) agenda since 1994 and on what has changed on Sexual GBV, they are equally disturbed by increasing levels of SGBV in Botswana communities.
Her desire is to empower communities to come up with their own solutions to end SGBV. Moalosi told participants at the Summit that NGOs in Botswana commit to contracting and ensuring robust community engagement, including starting indigenous and disability movements on SGBV to galvanise and mobilise communities to prevent and respond to SGBV. Their plan is to also develop sustained gender transformative programmes that mainstream HIV and GBV, as well as to expand reach and coverage of services and create community safe spaces for the hard to reach, as well as improve services in urban areas.
“We commit to utilising social contracting and ensure NGOs lead in the prevention of SGBV and in the response to ending SGBV at community level,” Moalosi said, adding that they also commit to mainstreaming gender equality conversations and break the silence on SGBV.
“We can no longer hold back. Our communities have to be safe for our women and girls,” she said. The Nairobi Summit on ICPD25 that concluded hursday last week in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi represents a renewed, re-energised vision and community working together to act and deliver.
“Together, we will make the next ten years a decade of action and results for women and girls, keeping their rights and choices at the centre of everything we do,” said UNFPA Executive Director Dr. Natalia Kanem.
Denmark’s Special Envoy for the ICPD25, Ambassador Ib Petersen said there will be no ICPD50 because women and girls around the world have waited long enough to have rights and choices.