Gay Botswana News & Reports 2011

1 Batswana Register New Trans Organisation 1/11

2 This Man Is My Wife 1/11

3 EFB aganist legalisation of homosexuality and prostitution 2/11

4 Press Release: Gays “Children of Botswana” 2/11

5 Botswana MP says he hates gays and lesbians 2/11

5a High Court Judge Assigned to Decriminalisation Case 2/11

6 Dare to be different 3/11

7 Botswana’s Pink Debate 3/11

8 Botswana’s LGBTI Community 4/11

9 Former Presidents Condemn Malawi’s Gay Rights Stance 5/11

9a LGBTI Component In New Botswana Initiative On Sex Work 6/11

10 Reaching Out to LGBTI in Botswana’s Semi-Urban Areas 6/11

11 Open Society Hosts Meeting Of LGBT Activists From So. Africa 8/11

17th January 2011 – Behind The Mask

Batswana Register New Trans Organisation

Lives of Botswana’s transgender people are seemingly about to change for better, 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.

While Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), the first LGBTI group in Botswana is struggling until now to get registered, with the government having said that registering such an organisation will be tantamount to registering an organisation of criminals, Mogapi said the only 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.

He added that there was also a lot of confusion on the side of the registrar who seemed not to understand the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation, which caused more delays. Mogapi said the laws of Botswana required RIA to have 10 members, seven board members, a constitution and registration fees of P500. “It was legally registered on 8 December 2010, the government has recognized us by granting an NGO status and we hope to tackle issues such as identity cards and passports for trans people and their involvement in sports which have been major problems in the past”, Mogapi said.

He added, “I was not sure at all that they would register the organisation since I was a litigant in the case opposing the non registration of LEGABIBO, but now that it is done I am very excited, this will enable us to raise our voices without fear that we are illegitimate. We will also be able to sensitize the general community about issues of sexuality, gender identity and human rights and also to promote the culture of self reliance and courage to voice out human rights violations within our community.” RIA will soon be recruiting staff to run projects and Mogapi says they will now publish the address of their offices something they avoided disclosing in the past due to stigmatisation of trans and intersex issues.

January 21, 2011 – The Voice

This Man Is My Wife

by Kabelo Dipholo
A Motswana man makes history for being the first citizen to marry another man
Barely two months after The Voice carried a story about two lesbians from Francistown who became the first gay couple to go public about their undying love, a local socialite has even gone further and said “I do” to his long time partner. Mooketsi “Mocks” Sedimo tied the knot with his South African lover Mzoxolo Cakwebe on 11 December 2010 at Wanderers Country Club, Johannesburg. Cakwebe is already using Sedimo as his second surname. Sedimo is the first Motswana to marry a person of the same sex in a country where it is illegal for people of the same gender to engage in sex.

Speaking to The Voice from his home in Johannesburg, Sedimo said he met ‘his wife’ through a mutual friend while studying in South Africa. The gentleman who has been linked to the Directorate of Intelligent Services (DIS) said while there are still some of his relatives who do not approve of his same sex marriage, there are those who have given him their blessings.

“Some of my family members have always known about my sexual preferences, but now that the story about my marriage has been leaked, more will know and this might help in stopping all the speculation,” he said. The newly-wed said they had intended to let as few people as possible know about their wedding but some wedding pictures were leaked through the internet. “I have every belief that the pictures were leaked by our hired photographer. We had not signed any confidentiality clause so we cannot take any action against him,” he said.

Sedimo who did not sound at all worried despite gay marriages being illegal in Botswana said he and his wife will be coming back to Botswana mid-February.

Pictures of the extravagant wedding forwarded to The Voice, sees some of the local socialites posing with the couple. “Look here my man, what’s done is done, the issue is already out so I might as well go on and live my life. People will choose what to think,” he said.

Meanwhile Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV-AIDS (BONELA) Prism Coordinator Felistus Motimedi said their organisation has no position on same sex marriages. “BONELA only focuses on health issues of people involved,” Motimedi told The Voice.

Coordinator of Lesbians,Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) Caine Youngman said though they will be happy to see same sex marriages allowed in the country they are not yet ready to challenge the constitution of Botswana on the matter. “LEGABIBO is currently focusing on the welfare of gays in the country, but we will be happy if one day same sex marriages will be allowed in this country. What we also wish for is for such marriages conducted outside the country to be recognised here,” Youngman said.

02 February 2011 – MMEGI online

EFB aganist legalisation of homosexuality and prostitution

The Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB) wishes to express its concern at the relentless campaign by BONELA and other similar organisations whose aim is the legalisation of prostitution and homosexuality in the Republic of Botswana.

The argument of the NGO has been that prostitutes are at a high risk of contracting HIV and developing Aids and that the solution to their marginalisation would be to legalise prostitution so that prostitutes could come out of the shadows and have access to condoms and counselling without fear of victimisation and arrest. The second line of argument that they have advanced is what has been termed the benefit excuse elsewhere. It has been argued that prostitution is beneficial to the prostitute and the society. The prostitute gets paid for selling her body; the society benefits from taxing whatever money she makes and exploiting her sexually. The end result being that both parties win. We believe that such a perception is flawed since in the final analysis everyone loses since the prostitute loses her dignity while the society loses its moral standing.

We wish to urge the government and the general public to reject, disregard and disassociate itself from the arguments of BONELA and other similar organisations because they are misleading since they disregard the belief systems, both cultural and religious, of Batswana. The laws of Botswana should be crafted in such a way that they protect the moral fibre of our society regardless of what is fashionable from elsewhere. If prostitution is made legal, the justice system would essentially condone the peddling of human flesh for profit. Our views on the subject of prostitution and homosexuality are influenced by our position on three issues: First, is our perception of the value and sanctity of the human body. We believe that the human body is intrinsically special and needs to be protected and treated with dignity.

It should not be violated, sold in sex or slavery or lacerated in any way. Prostitution debases the human body and turns it into a mere commodity. Homosexuality, fornication, adultery and incest are therefore inappropriate expressions of our sexuality since they are not just unbiblical but they are also not in consonance with our national culture and traditions. Our nation has done well to keep these legally and customarily unacceptable.

Second, our views are influenced by our understanding of sex. We believe that sex should not be put on sale for those with financial resources. Instead, it should be enjoyed within a loving union of a man and a woman. Third, is our moral reference point. The society needs a moral compass to determine what is wrong or right. Otherwise we will be blown away by any view, opinion, idea and practice that blows our way. Our national anthem captures this moral compass succinctly: “Fatshe leno la rona, ke mpho ya Modimo, ke boswa jwa borraetsho…”

We believe God remains a moral compass for the larger part of the population of Botswana. Therefore, prostitution violates our collective consciousness since our country was founded on conservative Christian ideals. These ideals left a moral imprint on our society from which we must not veer. Prostitution supports and reinforces sex outside marriage which for many years has contributed to social ills such as the collapse of the family, teenage pregnancy, dysfunctional families and weak marriages. The EFB has observed with much concern that many attempts are being made by BONELA to subtly change the moral code of the nation and therefore condemns in the strongest terms the following:

1. The consideration to introduce condoms in our prisons is backdoor condonation of the practice of sodomy practice in our jails. Our nations should creatively explore how to assist those in prison without compromising moral standards. We therefore disagree with the Minister of Health’s as well as BONELA’s pronouncements for this to be considered and support the nation’s Vice President the Honourable Mompati Merafe in stating that this should not be done. We wish him a speedy recovery! It is clear that this proposal to distribute condoms in prisons is an attempt at sneaking homosexuality through the back door.

2. The attempt to make a dividing line between sodomy and homosexuality. Whilst being gay has not been referred to by the penal code, the reference to sodomy in the penal code indicates the intention of the writers of the Constitution of Botswana in illegalising homosexuality. It is therefore to send a wrong and harmful message to suggest that there is nothing wrong with being gay and that the government of Botswana is unable to enforce the law in this regard. As the EFB we believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman, and are opposed to same sex unions.

We urge Batswana from all walks of life, Christian and none, to exercise vigilance to ensure that our faiths, cultures and laws are not offended by the proposed changes to the law to satisfy the agendas of organisations that do not have the interest of the nation at heart. There is nothing constructive about putting women and girls for sale and promoting and supporting homosexual acts. We must resist any suggestions that would lead to homosexual marriages in our nation; Actions which would encourage prison homosexual conduct and practices by introducing condoms in our prisons.

Sanity must prevail. God’s standards are not relative but absolute. EFB will be monitoring developments on this subject and will do all it can, together with its partners to ensure that the legalisation of homosexuality and prostitution never becomes a reality in our republic. EFB also appeals to all its affiliates and believers to pray for the restoration of the nation’s highest ideals so that the country does not degenerate any further into ungodliness.

Pastor Biggie Butale
EFB President

09 February 2011 – LeGaBiBo (Lesbian, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana)

Press Release: Gays “Children of Botswana”

(Posted at a press conference announcing the legal challenge to the Botswana Penal Code statute that criminalizes homosexuality)

Most Africans including Batswana see same sex sexual behaviour as a western import, believing that was never a practice that took place whether privately or openly. The contrary is in fact true, homosexuality has been in African culture since time immemorial, it is actually homophobia that is ‘un African’, it was the European colonialists and preachers who imported the hatred against same sex behaviour. They brought the criminal categorization of that behaviour. The acts were indigenous. The name and the crime were imported. The laws that some politicians now defend as bulwarks of independence and authenticity are themselves colonial impositions.(Scott Long, 2003)

While it is true that heterosexual marriage has always been viewed as the ‘norm’ never were people attacked or outlawed for being different, African culture prided itself on the spirit of ‘botho’ which embodied tolerance and acceptance as its main pillars. Individual identity and individual sexuality are constructed on basic humanness, ‘botho’, the self and the inherent right to ‘be’–to be authentic–not based on culture or religion as suggested by many conservative traditionalists and religious fundamentalists. Sexual orientation is essentially a private and personal issue. Unfortunately it has become a public political tool for power and influence in Botswana used by politicians, legal authorities and clergy as puppet issue to advocate for an anti-gay status quo; the result is discrimination, prejudice and hate–definitely un-African values.

African leaders and religious leaders seem to promote homophobia for very cynical and selfish reasons, politicians use the rhetoric against same sex behaviour to detract people from the real issues facing their countries, such as HIV/AIDS, poverty, human rights abuses, etc. They accuse LGBTIs for being responsible for the moral decay in their society, they are silent about the human rights abuses and the undemocratic practices which are perpetrated by state agencies, such as police.

Religious leaders in Botswana, especially the evangelists, have been duped by anti-gay fundamentalist western counterparts into implementing an agenda that has little to do with improving the moral fibre of Africa; the balance of power in the west is now firmly in the hands of the statesmen and the western churches are now turning to Africa using money and gifts to persuade the religious leaders to import this hate in order to restore this balance of power. Botswana’s homosexual history is therefore more than just a sociological aspect of the sub continent. Statements uttered by Rev Butale fuel hate, false and uninformed interpretation of the bible, stigma and discrimination that continue hinder progression, implementation of relevant intervention and respect for all.

Many religious leaders condemn homosexuality, calling it a sin or even an abomination, But for LEGABIBO members, there is nothing inherently sinful about their sexual preferences. People read and interpret the scriptures through the spectacles of their culture and then have a tendency to use the scriptures to support their often unexamined and taken for granted cultural views of what is right and natural.(Bishop David Russell,2004)

Homosexuality is not a sin. Heterosexuality is not a sin. How can anything be that is not of one’s free will? Homosexuality and heterosexuality are not a choice but a combination of genetic, hormonal and environmental and societal influence. Neither can be changed, not by medicine or prayer. Any educated Christian such as Pastor Butale should realize that it is because of their hateful and insensitive speeches that gays and lesbians are the most marginalized and most discriminated minority group in our society. The real sin before God is not the reconciling of homosexuality with the bible but the failure to reconcile the continuous and systemic abuse and condemnation of LGBTI persons with the true love of God! (Dr. H.G.Porter,

11 February 2011 – PinkNews

Botswana MP says he hates gays and lesbians

by Staff Writer
A Botswana politician says he agrees with Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe’s views on homosexuality.
Pono Moatlhodi, who is the deputy speaker of the Botswana National Assembly, told a January meeting on HIV prevention that he would “never tolerate” gays and lesbians. The meeting, held by the Botswana Network on Ethics Law and AIDS and the Parliament AIDS Committee, was discussing how to prevent HIV transmission in prisons.

According to the Botswana Gazette, Mr Moatlhodi said: “On this point I would agree with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe who once described that behaviour as that of western dogs; I don’t like those gay people and will never tolerate them. They are demonic and evil. “When there are so many women in this country, why would anyone choose to have sex with another man? The Bible does not agree with such a thing and therefore it is evil; if we give prisoners condoms, are we are now saying they are free?” The newspaper reported that he said that if he had the power, he would have gay people killed.

President Mugabe once stated that gay people were “worse than pigs and dogs” and has resisted efforts to include gay rights protections in Zimbabwe’s new constitution. Speaking to Associated Press this week, Mr Moatlhodi defended his remarks and said homosexuality was “a culture away from our culture”.

The meeting also heard from a prison inmate who said that while some prisoners turn to same-sex relationships for comfort and intimacy, others were gay. The unnamed inmate said: “The gay lifestyle is not ‘sick’, ‘nasty’, ‘perverted’, or ‘gross’ as some people say disparagingly; it is simply two people showing love for one another, and it shouldn’t be confused with horny men in prison who are looking for the first thing that comes along. While we all have different views and opinions, please remember that we should not offend those who are different from us.”

(From GG) As of this posting: Good news follows bad news: since this MP’s comments were published there have been 38 comments sent in to Pink News by readers. All have unanimously disagreed with the MP and scolded him for various reasons.

March 07, 2011 – African Activist

High Court Judge Assigned to Decriminalisation Case in Botswana

by Caine Youngman
Botswana High Court Judge Zibani Makwade has been assigned to Caine Youngman’s case suing the government over the criminalisation of homosexuality. Youngman is challenging Section 164 of the penal code that sanctions discrimination against him on the basis of sexual orientation and violates fundamental human rights and freedoms inherent in all human beings as guaranteed and protected by the Constitution of Botswana.
High Court Judge Zibani Makwade has been allocated a case in which a confessed gay, Caine Yougman is suing state over the criminalisation of homosexual relationships. The dates of the case has not been set.

In his founding affidavit, Youngman, 29 says he has never been able to freely express his sexuality because of the law that criminalises sex between people of the same sex referring to it as ‘carnal knowledge against the order of nature’. “In order to do so I have to cross the border to South Africa where my sexuality is recognised and protected by law.” Youngman says he hates to cross the border constantly as he suffers grave inconveniences both financially and travel wise. Sometimes I fear for my safety in South Africa, in fact I was nearly hijacked before, many times I feel like a criminal when I enjoy my sexuality and I suffer prejudice in the communities when I openly express my sexuality.”

He says the prejudice is entrenched by the government as manifested by its refusal to register as an association of gays called Lesbians, Gays and Bisexual of Botswana (LEGABIBO) in which he is an active and founding member. Youngman says it is his belief that this denial was attempting to give credence to Section 164 of the Botswana Penal Code which section criminalises sexual acts between people of the same sex. “Furthermore, prospects of registration in the future are slim because the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs is on record as saying his office would have difficulties in registering LEGABIBO and decriminalising homosexuality.”

He believes that existence of section 164 effectively sanctions discrimination against him on the basis of sexual orientation, and violates fundamental human rights and freedoms inherent in all human beings as guaranteed and protected by the Constitution of Botswana. “The constitution of Botswana under section 3(a) provides for the protection of everyone’s right to ‘life, liberty, and security of the person and the protection of the law’ whatever his/her ‘race, place of origin, political…, creed or sex…”

Youngman says it is common cause that provisions in the Constitution, especially relating to fundamental rights and freedoms must be read together, and further that they are necessarily interlinked, that each other of them must be fulfilled for each one to be realised.

He says Parliament does indeed recognise that people have different sexual orientation as recently evidenced by the amendment of the Employment Act prohibiting discrimination at the workplace based on one’s sexual orientation. “It will be preposterous to argue that our Constitution does not confer protection to a class that is protected by a stator law.” Youngman says criminalisation of same sex is detrimental to public health as it pushes HIV/AIDS underground and makes interventions extremely difficult.

Modise Maphanyane, a staunch Catholic and former director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa, filed an affidavit with the court backing Youngman and supporting the decriminalisation of homosexuality. Maphanyane has thrown his weight behind Cane Youngman, a gay activist who wants Section 164 of the penal code to be scrapped. Youngman is challenging the constitutionality of Section 164 and alleges that it discriminates against homosexuals.

Read article

14 March 2011 – Sunday Standard

Dare to be different

by Mesh Moeti
Midway through a sentence, Caine Youngman pauses, peeks at my notebook, and asks; “Ever considered being a doctor?” Of course not. Why? “Your handwriting,” he says shaking his head disapprovingly. Oh gosh! Somehow it seems unbelievable that this bubbly character has been to the brink of suicide – not once, but a couple of times. It’s perhaps a miracle that each time he thought of doing it, something always happened to put off the act, such as someone turning up unexpectedly. “I realised this wouldn’t happen, so I started to review who I was,” he says.

The “this” in the above sentence refers to taking his own life, and “who I was” is an allusion to his sexuality. Youngman first got an inkling that he wasn’t like the other boys at upper primary school. When other lads exchanged information about which girl they had a crush on, he realised that he didn’t experience any such fantasy. Not knowing what being gay was, he thought with time he would feel like the other boys. Of course, it never happened and it led to a life of frustration and depression. Then began the suicidal thoughts at secondary school. An acquaintance, who also struggled with his sexuality, committed suicide. It seemed a neat option, and thus Youngman began planning his own death that never came to pass.

Born into a Catholic family, he was educated in the church’s schools from pre-primary to senior secondary school. His next step was to look outside the family’s religious home. Pentecostal churches talked of being born again, and I thought that it would work for me. I hoped my sexuality would change. It didn’t happen. The pastors always talked of how wrong homosexuality was; how gays and lesbian people were destined for hell. That was the scary thing for me,” he recalls. “Then I subjected myself to professional counseling in the hope that maybe they would manipulate my feelings. I had read somewhere that homosexuality is a mental defect. The counselor said, ‘homosexuality is not a mental defect; you just have to come to terms with yourself’.”

Nobody comes to terms with such revelation on the first day, but it kind of lifts the veil. Youngman recalls that from that point he began to rationally investigate his feelings. To confirm that indeed he was what he thought, he decided not to rush into a relationship – and it remained that way until he was 24, which was in 2004.

While struggling with the emotional turmoil and depression, he bore it all in silence. “Oh no!” he responds when I ask if he ever let his family in on what he was going through. “I never told my family because I was afraid. I had heard that some families would kick a child out because he was gay. Some would even disown you. Others would take you to dingaka tsa Setswana and that was something I didn’t want. I just wanted to be a perfect Motswana boy. Besides, I am from a generation where you were not supposed to talk to your parents about sex and relationships.”
So what was his initial understanding of that perfect Motswana guy?

“My understanding was a guy whose sexuality wouldn’t be put to question. Of course, that was a farfetched idea. It didn’t happen,” he says. While counselling put Youngman on the road to accepting his sexuality, what really got him over the suicidal thoughts was a passage he read somewhere which described suicide selfish behaviour because one didn’t consider the people left behind. “That made me think of my mother. It really made me think through. Then I decided to come to terms with myself. My mother always loved me even when I didn’t perform well at school. So I didn’t think this would be different,” he explains.

Read article

March 24, 2011 – African Activist

Botswana’s Pink Debate

Caine Youngman’s law suit against Botswana’s government for violating his fundamental human rights by criminalising homosexuality has generated a huge amount of debate in Botswana. Tigele Mokobi’s editorial in The Botswana Gazette documents a heated discussion he overheard in a mini-bus taxi ride to his home. As Mokobi reflects on the discussion, he asks an important question: “We are a secular state, with an elaborate Bill of Rights that is enshrined in the Constitution and we pride ourselves with the values of Botho, where then do we get off maligning and criminalising consensual same-sex sexual activity?”

Here is a snippet of the conversation in the mini-bus taxi:
“The Holy Bible and the constitution of Botswana proclaim homosexuality sinful and illegal. Just how do these girls hope to live in a country that prohibits homosexuality?” yells the driver with a strong North-Eastern accent. “It is a sad day when we start identifying groups of people by how they choose to have sex,” chips in the soft spoken bespectacled passenger. “I find it amazing that a country like Botswana still treats members of society as second class citizens based on their sexual orientation.”

“We have no right to impose our morals on others. Gays and lesbians have a right to identity. They are Gods creation and we must love them as we love ourselves,” declared the elegantly dressed young lady. “If homosexuality is natural then why is it only human beings that show this blatant disrespect of all natural laws, that even animals respect with their very lesser intelligence?” shouts someone from the rear seat. “The Bible says Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. Human beings believe they are superior to animals, why then do they go below them through behaviours like homosexuality? God help us! The birds and wild animals know how to do it better, I have never come across a gay cow or chicken.”

“This perverted practice is un-African!” retorts the elderly woman in disgust as she disembarks at the Taung bus stop. “But what do you say of the body of folklore and documented evidence of same-sex sexual relations among men in a number of pre-colonial societies. How do you think herd boys and regiments released sexual tension?” a passenger with dreadlocks in a khaki coloured Yankees base-ball cap shouts after her.

He proceeds to relate how it was only after the arrival of the white man with the Bible in one hand and his laws in the other, that this largely ignored or suppressed practice among African societies became viewed with shame and dishonour. “Isn’t it ironic that the same white man who demonised homosexuality in the Bible and statutes is now propagating it as an acceptable and legitimate lifestyle!?” he asks. “The way I see it, it is ignorance and fear that fuel this irrational aversion and hostility towards homosexuality,” he proclaims.

After reflecting on the discussion, Tigale Mokobi provides his own conclusions:
Later in the evening at home, I’d reflect on the encounter in the mini-bus taxi and was struck by the extent of how the conversation was a metaphor of the broader debate on same-sex sexual relationships. Especially revealing is how much of the stigma, belligerence and chauvinistic ultra-repressive attitude towards homosexuality is justified by opponents on broad religious, cultural and legal grounds. These attitudes are underwritten by powerful cultural norms and institutions such as the Church and the State whose combined might have come to bear on a citizenry who simply pray for the recognition and protection of their inalienable rights to self expression.

I am taken aback by the religious zealots, cultural hypocrites and the statutory abuse of the rights of people inclined to same-sex sexual relationships. This hostility and resentment flies in the face of our national values of Botho and the national vision 2016 which espouse tolerance, compassion, equality, justice and peace. I feel that as a society it is time we looked ourselves in the mirror and see ourselves for who were really are and what we are achieving with our widely accepted prejudice against sexual minorities.

We are a secular state, with an elaborate Bill of Rights that is enshrined in the Constitution and we pride ourselves with the values of Botho, where then do we get off maligning and criminalising consensual same-sex sexual activity? Why do we allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by the selective scriptures quoted by some deceptive ‘men of the cloth?’ What business do we have in what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms? This I find to be the height of bigotry! Former Botswana President Festus Mogae recently participated in the BBC Debate: Is Homosexuality Un-African? and concluded that not only was homosexuality African but that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons are worthy of human rights.
Botho is Botswana’s fifth National Principle and it defines a process of earning respect by first giving it, and to gain empowerment by empowering others. Botho includes positive attributes expected of a human being such as respect, good manners, compassion, helpfulness, politeness and humility. This principle plays an important role in the way the people of Botswana interact in society.

April 25, 2011 – African Activist

Botswana’s LGBTI Community

Botswana is taking centre stage in the progress of human rights in Africa with Caine Youngman’s law suit demanding that the government decriminalise homosexuality. Richard Ammon traveled to Botswana and spent time with all the people involved in the case. He also explored Botswana’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.

Global Gayz reports:

Meeting Caine, Pilot, Monica and Uyapo:
LeGaBiBo is the only LGBT organization in Botswana. (There is a small trans and intersex organization called the Rainbow Identity Association that succeeded in getting registered with the government in 2010 because it was not a gay ‘sexual orientation’ group, but rather a support group for ‘alternative gender identity’ people.)

LeGaBiBo was formed about ten years ago in the shadow of laws that criminalized homosexual activity. Monica Tabengwa, Caine Youngman, Pilot Mathambo are part of the leadership of LeGaBiBo, among others. Their ally is Uyapo Ndadi the director of Bonela (Botswana Network on Ethics, Laws and HIV/AIDS). All four are the driving force behind this courageous effort against religious and political oppression in Botswana. I met all four and experienced their intelligence, articulateness and determination to take on the daunting task of fighting back against blind ignorance and deliberate bigotry that runs recklessly throughout the Botswanan culture fueled by distorted Christian beliefs and ignorant politicians.

Being gay in this country has been, since colonization by England in the 19th century (independence came in 1966), an outlaw condition according to now archaic Victorian legal statutes and social standards. Although not vigorously enforced (clearly reflecting the irrelevant irrationality of the law) the stigma still reverberates culturally and is felt personally by most LGBT individuals.

Bonela is a non-governmental organization (NGO) formally established in 2001 to support human rights initiatives in the area of HIV/AIDS and to facilitate concerned organizations and individuals committed to protecting and promoting the rights of all people affected by HIV/AIDS.

Meeting Monica, one of the lawyers handling the decriminalisation case:
My first sit-down was with Monica Tabengwa, an articulate and forceful lesbian human rights lawyer and LeGaBiBo officer who has been instrumental in drawing up the high court complaint. She is truly a ‘big Mama’ in both size and compassionate parenting of an adoptive teen-age ‘son’ (since age 7). I wondered if he knew about her; she wasn’t sure, “but he sees my friends–mostly lesbian couples–when they visit so he must think something about that.”

In school the kids have health/sex health education but little if any mention of homosexuality so what he learns is from his peers and in the public forum. Mostly it is not positive because of social, political and religious homophobia. Intimate sexual matters are much in the closet as it is not a topic that parents feel comfortable discussing. Recently she heard her son react negatively to a TV report about homosexuals. She was surprised at his reaction and intends to bring up the issue with him soon.

Her recent work, along with others, has been composing and refining the strategic litigation against the government (submitted on the same day we spoke). The overall plan has three components: composing the litigation; developing a public education program; and capacity building of LeGaBiBo to be an effective organization.

Read article

May 25, 2011 – African Activist

Former Presidents of Botswana and Zambia Condemn Malawi’s Gay Rights Stance

Festus Mugae and Kenneth Kaunda, former Presidents of Botswana and Zambia, are on their HIV Free Generation tour in some African countries. At a news conference in Lilongwe they condemned Malawi’s criminalisation of homosexuality as harmful to LGBTI persons and the fight against HIV/AIDS. “We can preach about behavioral change, but as long as we confine gays and lesbians into dark corners because of our inflexibility to accomodate them, the battle on HIV and AIDS can never be won,” said Mugae, who is the chairperson of the Champions of HIV Free Generation.

On his part, Kaunda urged all African leaders to start recognizing same sex marriage. Said Kaunda: “We are not only condemning African leaders who are criminalizing same sex marriage, but we are urging them to start recognising these people, for the sake of HIV and AIDS.” Kaunda and Mugae’s condemnation comes amidst the heated debate between government and religious leaders on one hand and some civil society organizations on another hand on whether the country should embrace same sex marriages.

Malawi civil society organisations Centre for Development of People (CEDEP), Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation (CHRR) and Malawi Religious Leaders Living and Affected by HIV and Aids (Manerela+) have recently challenged statements by religious and government leaders. In the BBC Debate in Johannesburg last March, Is Homosexuality Un-African?, former Botswana President Festus Mogae was clear that not only was homosexuality African but that LGBTI persons are worthy of human rights. Last February, Malawi President Bingu Wa Mutharika signed a bill into law that criminalised sex between women.

June 10, 2011 – Behind The Mask

LGBTI Component In New Botswana Initiative On Sex Work

by Skipper Mogapi
A new sex workers initiative in Botswana has included an LGBTI component in it’s programme. African Sex Workers Alliance (ASWA) is a Pan African movement and alliance for the rights of sex workers which was established in 2009 in Johannesburg South Africa, with a number of 105 sex workers from different countries in Africa.
Sisonke Botswana, a sex work group currently housed by Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), joined ASWA and dedicated a week to the mapping of sex workers rights in Botswana with the aim to forming a coalition which will advance the human health rights of most key population (sex workers, transgender, MSM and drug users).

The aim of the coalition is to end human rights violations of sex workers. “We met with Nkailela Trust, LeGaBiBo, BONELA, Rainbow Identity and YOHO. The reason we are inclusive of LGBTI is because they are sexual minorities and as sex workers we feel much comfortable working with them, plus they are also part of sex work”, said Kyomya Macklean ASWA’s regional coordinator. She explained that Sex Work is widely misunderstood and is usually not recognized or accepted as a form of work because most of the time is considered as evil, deviant or immoral.

Sex work is mostly given the face of women or girls but many studies have revealed that sex work cross cut and does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, there are male sex workers and LGBT sex workers. “I’m not a lesbian but when a client is female I do service the client, actually the LGBTIQ clients are the most payers, they pay more than the so called heterosexual client” said Macklean Decriminalization of sex work and support from the civil society would build sex workers capacity to speak and act for themselves through forge of partnership within existing organizations where sex workers are not given space.

“When we met with sex workers, some of them shared the stories of abuse and they did not know it was human rights violation as they felt as sex workers they do not have human rights” said Collie of Sisonke’s coordinator in South Africa. Sex Workers have been excluded in main forums and this partnership will enable sex workers who identifies as LGBTI to come out and also the organizations that deals with sexual orientation and gender identity to create a platform for discussion. As one may fear discrimination as they already stigmatized for not conforming to the social norms.

June 20, 2011 – Behind the Mask

Reaching Out to LGBTI in Botswana’s Semi-Urban Areas

by Skipper Mogapi, Arcus Correspondent
Many people, including the lesbian and gay community, do not understand the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity. As a result, the Rainbow Identity, an organization that works to create a democratic society that recognizes, respect and protect the rights of transgender and intersex people in Botswana organized a one-day meeting with the LGBTI community in the central town of Palapye, north of Gaberone over the weekend.

The main objective of this meeting was to create a better understanding of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation and also understand the role that society expects us to play as males and females and also recognize how the gender role affects choices in life as well as health and well being.“We understand the society tells us that the diagram should be one straight line that is a man has a male gender identity and masculine gender expression and totally heterosexual, but reality is totally different there is lots of diversity” said one of the facilitators The group consisted of diverse people from the towns of Orapa, Serowe, Selebiphikwe, Pilikwe and Palapye who mostly self identify as lesbians and gays.

They learned that the LGBTI movement for many years focussed on gay rights and ignored the transgender and intersex issues.“We really appreciate this training as most of us who have been in the movement we know that the trans people have done a lot for the movement its time we support them, but for us to support them we need to understand them” said GS Seretse, one of the participants. The participants heard that lack of education around the issue of intersex people leads to the making of the wrong decisions within the families of intersex children as ordinarily most intersex people are hidden from view in rural areas and those who live in urban areas quietly go through operations.

Tamati Soso one of the participants thanked the Rainbow Identity Association for the insights and education on gender issues saying, “it was a learning curve for me and I think also for many who attended.” At the end of the meeting participants recommended that the Rainbow Identity embarked on an exercise to educate parents, especially the ones from rural areas. They said this would enable intersex people to come out and to do more outreach work to both the LGBTI community and the general population as a whole..

August 19th, 2011 – Behind The Mask

Open Society Hosts Meeting Of LGBT Activists From Southern Africa

The Open Society Initiatives for Southern Africa (OSISA) has just concluded a three day meeting in Johannesburg for LGBT activists from 13 regional countries. During the meeting participants were asked to form three groups (Lesbians /Bisexual women/WSW, Gay/Bisexual/ MSM and Transgender /FTM/MTF/Non conforming) to identify the problems faced by each group regarding HIV/Aids. Most of the groups shared the same sentiments such as legal framework, laws and policies that hinder the LGBT community from accessing services. They also discussed access to justice, access to education, social empowerment, socio-cultural issues and hate crimes.

“It was open and fair enough to cover HIV related issues facing LGBT communities regionally and I strongly believe that all the ideas together will bring change in African countries” said TP Mothopeng from Lesotho’s Matrix Support Group. During the meeting activists also shared their experiences on sexual orientation, gender identity and HIV/Aids, examined country specific context for LGBT and HIV issues, developed an advocacy agenda and strategy and then elected 10 people who will now represent the LGBT group at the next joint workshop which will take place in October where the three key groups will be represented.

Ian Swartz, OSISA programme coordinator for LGBTI special initiatives said in his opening remarks “The goal of the meeting is to build the capacity of the three key groups (LGBTI activists, women living with HIV, and sex workers) in 13 countries to develop a regional advocacy and lobbying strategy to address HIV and Aids.” For many years the HIV within LGBT sector has been led by gay men and it is only recently that the WSW were brought on board. As a result of these changes this meeting was totally different and the Trans community found they scored more nominations than the other identities to be on the working group.

In October 2010 UNIFEM [now UN Women] issued a call for proposals to work with three marginalized communities [namely sex workers, women living with HIV and LGBT communities] to develop regional advocacy strategies on HIV and Aids. The HIV and Aids programme, in partnership with the Women’s Rights programme and the Special Initiative on LGBT rights submitted a proposal and were awarded the contract.