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Gays, Lesbians SPEAK OUT

Publishing Date : 18 June, 2019

Author : KEAMOGETSE MOTONE

High noon came on Tuesday when High Court judge, Justice Michael Leburu, in a landmark ruling which gained international prominence, decriminalised consensual same sex sexual act.


Until Tuesday, same sex sexual intercourse was a criminal act which carried heavy sentences, a maximum of it being put seven years behind bars, and five years for those who attempted to do it. The end of colonial era law, was followed by euphoria in the LGTB society a vast majority of them felt liberated. Free from statutory discrimination and free from retribution for expressing themselves.


The case was brought to court by Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a 21 year-old University of Botswana student in 2018. By the time scores of LGBT community dispersed from the court on Tuesday, a new dawn had arrived. WeekendLife conversed with members of the LGBT society who expressed their thrill after being suppressed for many years now.


 “I am so ecstatic and I should applaud LEGABIBO team for representing us and fighting for us so tirelessly. It's about time the society recognises that LGBT people don't just wake up and decide to be gay. It’s never a matter of choice and the society should stop using religion to justify their prejudice on gay people. If my vote matters, so does my rights,” said Oratile Victor, the founder of Mister Gaborone pageant. Victor further shared that gay people have been treated so badly before, more so that even the law was against gay practices and everything tied to homosexuality.


“LGBTI people had to deal with stigma, discrimination, bullying in work places, schools and even in our communities where we live. Being gay has been seen as a taboo or something related with the dark world, hopefully this victory will also be an eye opener to Batswana to understand the issue of sexuality as it should be,” he explained. This issue saw former Flava Dome presenter, Loungo Pitse joining the party in celebrating the victory. Controversial local artist Motswafere took to facebook to celebrate a won battle.


“Thank you to all visible gay people, we take punches for those hiding and those shaming us for being visible and exercising our rights. You guys attended court cases, with Pride, with power and you have carried us to freedom,” he said. Local blogger on Stabane.com Brilliant Kodie highlighted that, same sex conduct being decriminalised is the confidence they believe they have been searching for as the LGBT persons in Botswana.


“Being backed by the constitution is going to enable us to deem ourselves as equals with heterosexuals. This also proves that indeed homosexuality has and still is African. Our narrative has been paused and with this win we are coming out to claim it,” he shared. Founder and the Overseer of The Kingdom of God at Hand church, Ketshedile Modise warned that the society must be careful when dealing with this issue.


“We must let love lead and not criticize, especially those who say they are Christians. If at all you are to criticize, you must have a solution to their problem which you're criticizing. Otherwise you have no right to criticize,” he said. “We must understand that those who are homosexual these days, they were born that way and until they meet a power greater than what they're going through, to change them. They need God. They are people. Homosexuality can happen to anyone, even to those standing out to criticise,” he said.


Modise also alluded that people may find themselves in the same circumstance as well in the future. “This is a test to the hearts of many people. A check to the society, to see what kind of people we have. Are our people intolerant as the outside world is? Thus, this is a check to the position of the hearts of the people. Let's accept other people as they are. Let's learn to love. You cannot solve someone's problem if you have not accepted their state and if you do not love them,” he said.


Reverent Thabo Mampane also argues that he believe that homosexuals are made in the image of God and hence he stand as a God representative to fights for the rights of those who are not respected. “I do not like it if the image of God is disrespected. People always say gay people embrace multi partners, why it is an issue when it comes to them. They have to behave like we behave. I am happy they won,” he said.


Policy and advocacy manager of LEGABIBO Caine Youngman said although they wish to see gay marriage in Botswana, but as for now they cannot. “We have the right to get married but our country is still at a certain stage,” he said.  “Today’s court judgement sends a strong message that no one should be harassed, discriminated against or criminalized because of their sexual orientation. With this ruling, Botswana has said ‘no’ to intolerance and hate and ‘yes’ to hope and equality for all people,” said Muleya Mwananyanda, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Southern Africa.
 

“For far too long, people entering same-sex relationships in Botswana were discriminated against by the very same laws that are supposed to protect them. This court decision marks an exciting new era of acceptance, which should inspire other African countries to follow suit.”  
Botswana is the latest country in Africa to decriminalise same sex relations, following Angola in January 2019, Seychelles in June 2016, Mozambique in June 2015 and São Tomé and Príncipe, and Lesotho in 2012.However, another 29 countries in Africa retain laws criminalizing same sex relations, including Kenya, where a law banning gay sex was upheld by the Kenyan High Court in May 2019.

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