OPINIONISTA: Queer up and seek justice and protection for all in Botswana

OPINIONISTA: Queer up and seek justice and protection for all in Botswana By Dumiso Gatsha

15.5.2019

OPINIONISTA: Queer up and seek justice and protection for all in Botswana By Dumiso Gatsha

The rights of LGBT people in Africa are tenuous, where they exist at all. In Botswana, the president has spoken out about the need to protect those in same-sex relationships, a major advance. Now the stories of those who are ‘other’ need to be told.

not far off from the rugby pitch. It was on a very early spring morning when

I was numb from the alcohol I had been given by older boys. The person who protected me in school became the reason I could not move or scream for help. I already had no voice,

The realities of a demographic that is often the rhetoric of political leadership, religious intolerance and societal taboo are often unheard. When shared, the common narratives that emerge include violence, “corrective rape” and health concerns. This demographic is characterised as un-African and criminal in many jurisdictions within the region. Many are afraid of its visibility, believing it’s a threat to society. Notwithstanding, this demographic remains steadfast, unwavering and dynamic in its quest for justice and protection.

2019. Celebrated in over 130 countries around the world, people of diverse or non-conforming sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression (Sogi) will be raising awareness on their lived experiences (better known as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender [LGBT] people, despite there being many other variants within the demographic).

LGBT Batswana are tired of the pain and harm faced every day. From early adolescence, experiences shared reflect how we are not always nurtured or allowed to express ourselves freely. Our learning environments are plagued with bullying and abusive teachers. In teenage years, we are faced with struggles of confusion in attraction, discomfort in pronouns used to refer to us, and self-acceptance within the context of spiritual and cultural beliefs.

In Botswana’s context, the high levels of unemployment, inadequate comprehensive health access and lack of civic participation is not unique to us. Many LGBT experiences I have come across reflect that there is nothing special or non-conforming that we wish for. Rather, we wish for the same dignities and freedoms that everyone else enjoys. The only difference is that we face the risk of persecution, policing of our bodies and being excluded from meaningfully participating in the communities in which we live. Again, this is not unique to being LGBT.

The starting point is hearing the story of those most marginalised or vulnerable. When we prioritise the children and the elderly at a family gathering; power is eliminated, privilege is shared and patriarchy doesn’t feel threatened. It is the same concept that we should think of within our areas of influence. There can always be competing interests and causes – however, where gross injustices and indignities exist, then there is something you can do or say. This speaks to the fabric of humanity, an existence of belonging and becoming that has survived centuries, wars and tyrants before.

Read more: Daily Maverick
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