Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, trans-gender and intersex persons (LGBTI) want President Mokgweetsi Masisi to allow same sex relationships which to date, are deemed unlawful in Botswana.
Masisi had recently called for the respect and protection of LGBTI persons’ rights at the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Violence on Women and Children last week. His utterances on the matter, enlisted words of praise and admiration from the LGBTI community would then pen him a letter of gratitude while also laying bare some of their nagging concerns.
“There are also many people of same-sex relationships in this country who have been violated and have also suffered in silence for fear of being discriminated. Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected,” Masisi stated at last week’s launch.
In their letter directed at the president, members of Lesbians Gays Bisexual of Botswana (LEGABIBO) thanked him for these words, saying they were thankful to his affirmation and mentioning of their ordeals and suffering. The president’s public acknowledgement of violations directed at members of this marginalised community, and his recognition of the discrimination and the resultant fear generated by all these, were particularly a source of inspiration to the concerned group.
These LEGABIBO members added that they are grateful to hear a sitting President speak openly and publicly on the need to protect those in same-sex relationships who have been violated.
“We are pleased that you named aloud the violence that members of our community suffer in their daily lives. We are writing this letter to encourage you to continue your efforts in ensuring that the human rights of all persons are upheld regardless of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
This is an example of good governance and respecting the rule of law,” says their letter. They further urged Masisi to raise expectations within Parliament for zero-tolerance of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, verbal or otherwise, urging his office further to make efforts to decriminalise consensual same-sex relationships, stating that Section 164 of the Penal code, which criminalises such relationships, fuels the violence, discrimination, suffering and fear.
“We are particularly interested in what you will do about this section of the law. Because this unjust law is the basis of violence directed at members of our community, your planned actions regarding this matter are of our primary and highest interest,” stated LEGABIBO. They also impressed upon the president to address the gender markers on their birth certificates, Omang and passports, adding that these markers were problematic and caused fellow citizens who identify as transgender and gender non-conforming to experience discrimination in all walks of life.
On related matters, they pleaded with the president to protect members of the LGBTI community from public violence and humiliation, citing a recent example where a transgender woman was attacked in Gaborone.
Religious leaders were neither spared as the concerned group also called on the president to protect members of their community against these religious leaders who fuel hatred towards them. “While we respect sincerely-held faiths in Botswana, we cannot condone those who preach inflammatory, discriminatory messages towards those who only seek to love members of the same sex,” says the letter, adding that the president should make a statement to all civil servants – teachers, healthcare workers, police and all service providers – that LGBTI people are citizens of this country, and like all other citizens, cannot be denied services available to the general public.
Members of the LGBTI community in Botswana say they are looking forward to Masisi’s leadership and a new approach to issues concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. “In conclusion, Your Excellency, we ask you to make it clear to all politicians that members of the LGBTI community are not amused hearing that politicians who support our rights will lose elections; hearing that we are to blame for lack of rain; and hearing religious and cultural doctrines that seek to disempower us. However, like you, we are interested in open dialogue to promote the human rights of LGBTI,” states the letter.
by Yvonne Mooka
Source – The Midweek Sun