It is against this backdrop that Justice Unity Dow challenged lawyers to debate this issue of homosexuality in Botswana. The former High Court Judge, and a new member of the ruling party, was speaking at the Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) AGM held last week Friday. She called on lawyers to debate; whether or not homosexuality is actually illegal. She set the tone for the debate by saying that some people might argue that it is the “having sex against the order of nature” that is illegal and that the police are being selective if they are only looking into the bedrooms of gay couples and assuming that all the sex acts that happen in heterosexual homes is in accordance with “the order of nature”.
Unity Dow’s view, talking about the refusal to register LEGABIBO yet again, is that a case could be made to seek LEGABIBO’s registration in order to promote the protection of same-sex couples’ rights lawfully. She said her views, are supported by Section 24 (4) of the Employment Act that provides for non-discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. She sarcastically asked the audience; “how then can it be unlawful to organize against a right that is specifically recognized by the law?
These are words of wisdom by the learned Judge and I hope that lawyers are listening and taking them seriously.
In the next couple of weeks, a platform will be created through BONELA to debate this issue and lawyers from government and the private sector will be invited. We need to ask ourselves the following questions as the debate unfolds;
a) What is meant by natural sex?
b) Should the state bother with who sleeps with who and how? Should Batswana be concerned with it and why?
c) What about invasion of privacy?
d) Is homosexuality offensive culturally or religiously? Does Botswana belong to religious people only? And are those countries with legalized homosexuality un-religious?
I am optimistic that as Dow ventures into a new journey as a politician, she will bring some of these issues to bear and encourage issue based politics!
Based on Rre Mogae’s remarks in the past; that he did not openly support gay rights while a president because he feared to lose votes, the question is Dow not fearful of this, will she make it in politics? I hope she does succeed on the basis of her support to gay rights and if she loses I hope she does not lose on the basis of this issue.
The debate should, therefore, address the issue of legality once and for all since it has contributed to the abuse of gay rights and are increasingly vulnerable to other situations such as HIV and AIDS, violence and so forth. These communities in Botswana need to break out of a life on the margins and build improved relations with their families and communities assert their human rights and gain better access to health and other services. In a nutshell, we want to see LGBTI Batswana treated as full citizens of Botswana, having the same rights as other citizens.