Not everyone is celebrating Tuesday’s judgement decriminalising same sex acts. In fact, for some, the ruling is an ominous sign of the times. Mmegi correspondent NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE writes
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s judgement, the country is split in its reaction. Across age groups, religions, geographies, race and others, Batswana are far from being united on the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
The divisions echo those on the continent, where Botswana is one of just three countries that have decriminalised same sex acts.
Kgosi Masunga Maruje III Masunga of Masunga is amongst those unimpressed with events this week.
He told Mmegi that as a nation, Batswana must respect human rights. However, also as a nation, it is everyone’s responsibility to help those with spiritual challenges.
“This issue needs a spiritual solution.
“In Botswana, we grew up in a traditional family system.
“This system that entails a mother, father and children, has worked well for the country for years.
“Even though some women headed their families, it was acceptable in the Setswana cultural set up.
“However, we have to be liberal as the world is changing,” he said.
He added that social dialogue needs to encompass the courts.
“In pronouncing certain judgments that affect society, the legal system must consult different stakeholders before taking certain decisions so that their judgments do not clash with the customary court laws, other stakeholders and the nation at large.
“Common law must give customary law an explanation on how it arrives at a certain conclusion.
“The problem with the common law is that it does not consult or prepare the community before passing certain judgements.
“This flawed mentality must be challenged. I foresee tension going forward. We are a conservative nation.”
Masunga expressed shock at the decision saying from a faith point of view, Botswana would stand judged by God. He said the Lord would speak on the institutions that are responsible for society destroying itself.
“The Holy Spirit is watching and the Lord hates sin.
“According to the Bible, homosexuality is a sin, just as much as theft, adultery and murder are sin.
“However, we do not see the court legitimising theft and other sins written in the Bible.
“The ruling challenges our integrity as a nation, our institutions, leadership and the country as a whole. We will watch if the State will appeal this case.”
Pastor Mabiletswane Siele, who stressed that he was speaking in his personal capacity, said the judgement was unacceptable. The Assemblies of God pastor said the Bible was unequivocal on the matter.
“Court opinion does not present the opinion of the church. According to the Scriptures, homosexuality is a sin,” he said.
He quoted Romans
“Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator who is forever praised.”
“Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error,” it states.
Pastor Samuel Makgaola also of Assemblies of God, who was also speaking in his personal capacity, shared another scripture on how God created humans as male and female to be fruitful and multiply.
On the other end, however, the judgement is being hailed by others who include human rights lawyer, Uyapo Ndadi.
Ndadi said the Tuesday’s judgement was the most impactful to ever come out of Botswana.
“The judgement means people who woke up that morning feeling like criminals went to bed feeling differently.
“The stigma and discrimination attached to them by the law was by the stroke of three pens (as we had a panel of three judges) removed.
“The important thing is that the judgement affirms what some of us activists have been saying over the years that the law has no business in the bedrooms of consenting adults.
“The judgement kicked out the intrusive and spying law.
“I am happy for my friends in the advocacy movement,” he said.
Ndadi said that victory was shared by many who played a part in advancing the human rights discourse.
“This is because at the heart of that case, the court needed to be persuaded that Batswana’s attitudes towards homosexuality had softened and were more accommodating and tolerant as opposed to the situation in 2003 when the Court of Appeal refused to do what the High Court has now done,” he said.
Whatever their points of view, the country’s authorities, from legislators, to Dikgosi to councillors, now have to face the community and explain what the changes in the law mean for them.