Mmegi Online :: Road smoother for gay rights movement
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Last Updated
Friday 02 December 2016, 15:54 pm.
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Road smoother for gay rights movement

The Court of Appeal (CoA) upholding a previous court ruling on Wednesday, will go down in history as a momentous day for human rights in Botswana. Endorsing the rights of the association for gays and lesbians can only mean so much for the country’s minority group. Staff Writer MPHO MOKWAPE takes a look at what the achievement means to them and the public at large.
By Mpho Mokwape Tue 22 Mar 2016, 15:09 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: Road smoother for gay rights movement








With the order for government to recognise Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), who have long been lobbying for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the journey now becomes less bumpy.  Even more so for LEGABIBO’s counterpart, Botswana Networks on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA).

In a stern judgment, CoA Judge President, Ian Kirby said while strong dissenting views are still expressed by religious and other groups, many people, especially prominent ones like politicians have begun to speak out in support of gay and lesbian rights.

 He went on to say gay rights are a subject which only a few years ago was a virtual taboo for public discussion, unless to condemn homosexuality outright.

Both Kirby and High Court judge, Terrence Rannowane, in addressing the constitution in their judgment, had explained that in the country all persons, whatever their sexual orientation, enjoy an equal right to form associations with lawful objectives for the protection and advancement of their interests.

Their extensive judgment opened dialogue for human rights activists and the general public leading to a fierce debate.

BONELA executive director, Cindy Kelemi told Mmegi that they as BONELA and LEGABIBO were happy with the CoA judgment, as they strongly believed that it was a human rights challenge they have emerged victorious in, once again. She said with government’s grounds of appeal adamant on the fact that homosexuality was not recognised in the constitution, it was only fair that the court identified that the constitution is for all persons and that it was not specific to one group. “We have to acknowledge that the constitution itself recognises all people and that, like the court outlined, there is no legislation in Botswana that prohibits anyone from being lesbian, gay or bisexual and as such there is no difference between homosexuals and heterosexuals,” she said. Kelemi said the judgment has given the homosexual community confidence to forge ahead in terms of advocating for equal rights and health-related issues.She maintained that the freedom to associate that has been clearly defined by court, was significant in terms of the society being able to confidently advocate, protect and fulfil the rights of the minority group. “It has been a breakthrough for us, more so that homosexuality has never been illegal or criminal.

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That means homosexuals can now express themselves freely and maybe follow in the footsteps of other countries who hold events such as Gay Pride,” she said. However, Kelemi acknowledged that the fight for equal rights was still not over, noting that they would continue working with Parliament in lobbying for change of some of the laws.   On the stance of the churches on homosexuals, Kelemi said they would continue engaging with them, but have been stubborn and very abusive towards the homosexual groups.  “Churches have been adamant that Botswana is a democratic country, yet they have been going against those principles of democracy by being abusive towards the homosexuals.”

Former BONELA director and human rights lawyer, Uyapo Ndadi’s, “reaction is that this is a momentous day for human rights in Botswana.  As a person who has seen the struggles of LGBI movement, I know what this victory means for them and the future generations. “It takes them giant steps forward in enjoying their basic freedoms as enshrined in the constitution.  “Whoever still thinks of them as criminals will have to think again going forward. It defies any logic for one to suffer because of who they choose to love and who loves them back. “It is selfish and self-serving to think that you are not gay. Like me, we should celebrate this feat.  It is not about us, but ensuring some human being sleeps at night because they can access health services without stigma.

Ndadi said that he believes many people will now come out of hiding and just be true to themselves.  He added that it is about time people saw them for who they are and not who they love.    “Health and prison authorities who have always argued that being a homosexual is criminal do not know that it is not.  “The highest court in the land has affirmed that and I hope now health interventions such as condoms will be given to everyone on the basis that they are human, irrespective of whether they are in prison or not.  The judgment affirms the value of equality for any individual.  I do trust that sex workers will also demand registration and lobby for change in laws,” Ndadi said.

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