I cannot disagree with this opening statement. In the context of Botswana we have seen our Parliament, churches and the National AIDS Council debate issues of same sex relations. This, to us, in the Civil Society Movement was a giant leap forward and gives us comfort and hope. I hold the view that Batswana are not necessarily homophobic, at least in comparism to other nations in Africa. I have seen many people come out to say they are gay, including, my friend Caine Youngman. He has not faced any hostility or societal backlash. Awesome! I have also been and continue to be presumed to be gay, but still, I have not been persecuted. I think this is remarkable indeed to say the least.
UNAIDS further indicates that 79 countries, including Botswana, still have laws that criminalize same-sex relations between consenting adults. It further laments that these laws are serious barriers to an effective AIDS response and thus driving lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people underground where they cannot access life-saving drugs. This position is consistent with the argument BONELA has had over the years. The reason why government would not provide inmates with condoms and lubricants is squarely on the basis of this law. However, I do not see why giving one condoms encourages them to have sex and violate the law. The way I see it is that condoms are meant to help those who are already going to have sex to have it safe. Condoms do not increase one’s libido or desire for sex unlike Viagra. I will therefore be the first one to ban Viagra in prisons and not condoms. I am pleased that National AIDS Council chaired by His Excellency the Former President Mr. F. G. Mogae, have called on government to decriminalize homosexuality. I hope government listens. I can’t help but think that government through its laws sanctions homophobia and not the people. If we have laws in our Employment Law prohibiting dismissals on the basis of sexual orientation why should we then have laws prohibiting intimacy of same sex relations? In essence we recognize their existence and want to get their Income Tax but would not care to allow them to express their identity. How bizarre is that! What are we saying to the world really and especially to the sexual minorities? Are we saying only your taxes are good?
UNAIDS further states, “a society’s value should not be based on money and power. It must be measured by the way it values people, regardless of their sexual orientation or social status. A prosperous society is one that ensures inclusiveness and respects all people”. These words are poignant, powerful and relevant to Botswana. As Batswana, how do we value sexual minorities? Are we inclusive? Do we respect all people? I argue that some of us imprison sexual minorities by the way we look at them. We see them as criminals and see them as unholy people not deserving our respect. In our minds they do not have to wait for the Judgment Day as their fate is already pre-determined. I choose to say NO to homophobia and I will join scores of sexual minorities this weekend as we march to end homophobia. You do not have to be gay or lesbian to get involved.