Towards an LGBTQ Africa

On Anti-Homophobia Day, Tashwill Esterhuizen examines the state of rights for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people on the African continent and argues that civil society can play a more meaningful role in changing governments’ conservative, sometimes oppressive, approach to the LGBT community.

It has been nearly three years since a young lesbian lady, Duduzile Zozo (26), a victim of “corrective rape”, was brutally murdered a mere 40 feet from her home in a neighbour’s yard in Gauteng’s East Rand.  Quite recently, community members in Malawi reportedly forced their way into the home of two men and ransacked it, because they suspected them of committing same-sex sexual practices. Meanwhile in Zambia, a young transgender woman was arrested for “impersonating” a woman.

These acts of violence and discrimination are merely some examples illustrating the lived reality of many gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people throughout Africa. These men and women remain vulnerable to prejudice, homophobia, persecution and discrimination simply on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.

Regrettably several African countries continue to criminalise intimacy between adult men and woman who love, care and are attracted to people of the same sex. While these criminal provisions do not extend to criminalising LGBT persons themselves or “homosexuality”, for that matter, the existence of these criminal provisions nevertheless perpetuate and promote stereotypes, increasing the vulnerability of the LGBT community.

Many African states justify the continued existence of the provisions that criminalise same-sex sexual intimacy on the premise that gay sexual expression is alien to their culture as it simply does not conform to the moral views of a particular section of society. These and similar sentiments show a lack of understanding, appreciation, respect and tolerance towards sexual diversity and expression and should be rejected outright.

LGBT persons form part of the rich diversity of any society. Any form of opinion or culture which degrades, humiliates and devalues gay men and lesbian women, purely because of their sexual expression, can never be a legitimate justification for the violation of their human dignity and privacy. As South African Constitutional Court Judge Laurie Ackermann, very eloquently held in National Coalition for Gay and Lesbian Equality and Another V Minister of Justice and Others, the “enforcement of the private morals views of a section of community, which are based to a large extent on nothing more than prejudice, cannot qualify as a legitimate…purpose” to criminalise sexual intimacy between consenting adults.

Unfortunately, instead of taking measures to change social attitudes and to educate the public about issues such as tolerance towards sexual diversity, criminal provisions often form the basis upon which states deny LGBT activists the right to freely associate with other like-minded individuals and form organisations that protect their interests and advocate for the rights and aspirations of the LGBT community.

For several years LGBT activists in Botswana were denied their right to freely associate and form their organisation, Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) aimed at promoting the interests of the LGBT community.  It was through courage, persistence and the continuous assertion of their rights that on April 29, 2016, LEGABIBO was registered as the first organisation to publicly advocate for the rights of LGBT persons in Botswana.

The registration came after the Botswana Court of Appeal found that the government’s refusal for several years to register LEGABIBO was unlawful and violated the activists’ right to freely associate and participate in the democracy. It does not matter that the views of the organisation are unpopular or unacceptable amongst the majority.

It is worth noting that the Court of Appeal rejected the government of Botswana’s contention that registering LEGABIBO would disturb public peace and is contrary to public morality. In fact, and quite remarkably, the Court of Appeal recognized that Botswana is a “compassionate, just and caring nation” and that “members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, although no doubt a small minority, and unacceptable to some on religious or other grounds, form part of the rich diversity of any nation and are fully entitled in Botswana, as in any other progressive state, to the constitutional protection of their dignity”.

The Court also found that there is a more tolerant and compassionate attitude towards previously taboo subjects (such as LGBT rights) and that attitudes in Botswana have somewhat softened towards LGBT rights.  Though public opinion should not form a basis upon which to deprive persons of their fundamental rights, it nevertheless indicates there has been a shift in societal attitudes towards LGBT rights. Importantly, the Botswana Court of Appeal’s decision is an important step towards further full recognition of LGBT rights throughout Africa. Moreover, it creates a meaningful space within which government and civil society can build towards acceptance of sexual diversity and decriminalisation of same-sex sexual intimacy.

While acknowledging that in every democratic society there will be dissenting views expressed by individuals or groups, which most often are nothing more than prejudice, and lack of understanding for diversity. Instead of conforming to and upholding prejudice, government and all members of society have a duty to take measures to “transform” those views and educate society in order to align it with the values of the constitution and international human rights instruments.

In particular, international and regional instruments oblige States to create a culture of understanding human rights within society. This includes respecting the rights of LGBT persons. In fact, both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the African Charter place an obligation and duty on states to ensure, through teaching and education, the promotion and respect for rights and freedoms. It also demands that States see to it that these freedoms and rights, as well as the corresponding obligations, and duties are understood by citizens.

Instead of criminalising gay and lesbian sexual expression, and claiming that it is repugnant and contrary to public morality, African states should take active and progressive steps to educate every segment of society about their constitutional and fundamental rights. It is important for people to realise that these rights are universal and apply to all citizens regardless of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. The Botswana Court of Appeal correctly observed that that “fundamental freedoms are enjoyed by every class of society, the rich, the poor, the disadvantaged, and even criminals and social outcasts…and to deny any person their humanity is to deny such a person their human dignity”.

Civil society and organisations such as LEGABIBO could play a crucial role in assisting African governments to foster a culture that protects human rights.  Indeed, civil society, especially those representing the interests of the LGBT community, can be an important ally and partner to assist African States in carrying out intensive sensitisation campaigns and education on LGBT and other human rights issues. By denying LGBT organisations registration and seeing civil society as an adversary, African governments are missing out on a crucial opportunity for collaboration and the chance to create an inclusive society. This kind of society encourages a culture of tolerance and respect for diversity while simultaneously upholding the obligations contained in regional and international instruments.

* Esterhuizen is a lawyer at the Southern African Litigation Centre which won LEGABIBO’s case in the Botswana Court of Appeal

Main Photo: Lawyers and members of LEGABIBO outside the Botswana Court of Appeal after their victory earlier this year.

This article was first published in The Con

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Kenya Could Become the Next Country in Africa to Legalize Homosexuality

By Anna Dubuis

In a country where gay sex is punishable by up to 14 years in prison and where attacks on the LGBT community occur frequently, a solitary rainbow flag flapping in the wind just a stone’s throw from the president’s official residence in Nairobi serves as a small but symbolic mark of rebellion.

Inside the building flying the flag, one of Kenya’s leading LGBT rights organizations, the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (NGLHRC), is working on a case currently filed in the country’s high court that could remove criminal punishment for adults who engage in homosexual activity altogether.

“Those laws degrade the inherent dignity of affected individuals by outlawing their most private and intimate means of self-expression,” the petition states.

It is the first time that anyone has directly challenged the ban, with lawyer and NGLHRC leader Eric Gitari saying he closed the office after filing the case over fears of a backlash from members of the public, but returned ten days later to find no threats or violence had taken place.

“We wanted to monitor the public reaction, and not put our staff at risk, but the reaction has not been as expected. We thought there would be backlash but there has been none,” he said.

The news barely made headlines in local media, and the social media reaction has been negligible. Next month, proceedings in the High Court will begin, though the appeals process means it could take up to five years for an outcome.

Kenya is one of 34 African nations where homosexual activity is illegal, with some countries punishing it with life imprisonment or even death. But Gitari hopes his country could soon follow in the footsteps of Mozambique and São Tomé and Príncipe, which have decriminalized homosexuality in recent years.

Related: Gambian President Says He Will Slit Gay Men’s Throats in Public Speech

The case brought by NGLHRC revolves around a challenge to Section 162 of Kenya’s penal code — a piece of legislation introduced in the 19th century during British colonial rule in East Africa. Under the heading “unnatural offenses,” it condemns anyone who has “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature.”

According to the Kenyan government, 595 cases were prosecuted under Section 162 between 2010 and 2014, though Gitari and his team found that most of them were cases of bestiality and rape — crimes currently seen as comparable to consensual gay sex in the eyes of the law.

In reality, Gitari says, the law is rarely enforced against homosexual activity, with only one person convicted since 2011. But activists say the law still provides legitimacy to discrimination in a society in which 90 percent of people oppose homosexuality, according to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center.

Gitari himself was outed as one of Kenya’s “top gays” on the front cover of a national newspaper in 2015, while in February last year two of his clients were subjected to anal examinations and HIV tests at the hands of police, after being accused of homosexual activity under Section 162.

It was the first case of forced anal testing that Gitari had heard of, but he knows of other cases in which men have been saved from the humiliating procedure at the last minute after doctors refused to carry it out. Meanwhile, the media attention surrounding the case resulted in mob attacks on suspected gay men in some parts of the country, forcing dozens of people from the LGBT community to flee their homes.

This week a court heard a petition from the two men challenging the use of anal exams, the outcome of which is expected in the coming months.

It was also due to Section 162 that Gitari’s application to officially register the NGLHRC as an NGO was rejected in 2013 on the basis he was seeking to promote illegal behavior. The High Court overruled the decision, but government regulator the NGO Coordination Board then appealed — a challenge Gitari is still battling against.

But the registration process has already yielded one victory, after the High Court ruled that someone’s sexual orientation was protected under the constitution — meaning the right to privacy, dignity, and equality that appear in the constitution’s bill of rights could not be limited to people of a particular sexual orientation.

Nevertheless, the ongoing criminalization of homosexuality leaves LGBT people ostracized and vulnerable to violence and blackmail.

“Young men have sex with older men for financial gain, and then cry rape if they don’t get the money they demand,” Gitari says. “We provide legal aid for so many blackmail cases like this. When people can’t get intimacy they will do things that are not safe.”

Related: Activists Ask Pope to ‘Help Us Cure One of the Worst Diseases in Africa: Homophobia’

Meanwhile, on top of the danger from homophobic attacks, Gitari says the ongoing illegality of homosexuality contributes to an ongoing problem Kenya’s LGBT community has with suicide. Gitari says he knows numerous people who have committed suicide, and even considered it himself.

“It is something that everyone who is gay goes through in this country. I thought about killing myself when I was young,” he said. “That hopelessness, without anywhere where people can meet, that’s what’s killing people and the source of that is the law.”

According to Gitari, the country’s capital city provides something of a welcome haven of greater acceptance to the LGBT community — although problems persist even there.

“Nairobi allows us to be anonymous. Everyone minds their own business,” he says. “There have been cases of rape and violence and physical assault, but the fact that it is not systematic widespread shows it is not comparable to our neighbors, like Uganda.”

It was in Nairobi that a pro-gay music video was filmed earlier this year, a remix of Macklemore’s 2012 hit Same Love.

When it appeared on YouTube, the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) tried to make Google take it down, with KFCB Chief Executive Ezekiel Mutua claiming the content threatened to turn people into “Sodom and Gomorrah.” While Google refused to remove the video, it agreed to post a warning for Kenyan viewers flagging it as “potentially inappropriate.” The makers of the video added a line to its description warning “This video contains imagery and a message that may be unnecessarily offensive to some.”

But in tweeting its outrage, along with a link to the offending video, the KFCB inadvertently gave it a massive boost, helping to take the video from a couple of hundred views to over a quarter of a million.

 

While the song has been upheld as a success for the gay rights movement in Kenya, reactionary comments on the YouTube page indicate the battle still has a long way to go.

The abuse also made its way to one of the actors who starred in the video, who has not come out to his family and friends, and says he was inundated with abusive messages and threats of violence on his phone and social media.

“I blocked the numbers and changed my privacy settings. They were really disturbing me,” he told VICE News, requesting to remain anonymous. “Sometimes I do fear walking around. I’m pretty scared.”

But Gitari believes that if the law is changed, societal attitudes will follow, and he thinks the political will is there — though as recent homophobic comments from Deputy President William Ruto highlighted, staunch opposition to change also remains.

Related: ICC Drops Crimes Against Humanity Case Against Kenyan Deputy Vice President Ruto

“The law is a big shackle. By removing it people will understand homosexuals are not criminals,” he said, adding that the government is extremely keen to promote Kenya as a good place for business and studies have shown that homosexuality laws act as a barrier.

“There is a lot of political will. We have seen consistency by the political class to refrain from legal matters when it comes to human rights,” he said.

That will has already been demonstrated through the country’s courts, following the landmark decision in 2014 to allow Kenyan transgender rights activist Audrey Mbugua to change her gender on her school records.

“Kenya could be a regional leader in gay rights, it’s an exciting time” said Gitari.

Neela Ghoshal, LGBT researcher at Human Rights Watch, agrees that Kenya could be on the brink of taking a major step that would reverberate through the continent, with gay sex punishable by life in prison in the likes of Uganda, Zambia, and Sierra Leone, and carrying a death sentence in Sudan, Mauritania, and northern Nigeria.

Currently South Africa is the only major African economy to have made serious progress on the issue of LGBT rights, after becoming the fifth country in the world and first in the Southern Hemisphere to legalize same-sex marriage in 2006.

“There is a real sense of momentum,” said Ghoshal of the legal challenge lodged by NGLHRC. “Other countries are certainly watching this court case.”

But Ghoshal warned that the path would not be smooth. “Ultimately, Kenya is a political beast, and progress can sometimes be derailed in the wink of an eye.”

NOTE: This article was first published in Vice News.

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Declaration by the High Representative, Federica Mogherini, on behalf of the European Union on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia And Biphobia, 17 May 2016

Declaration by High Representative, Federica Mogherini, on behalf of the European Union on the occasion of the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia And Biphobia, 17 May 2016

 On the occasion of the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the EU reiterates its strong commitment to the equality and dignity of all human beings irrespective of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

Despite recent progress around the world, almost 80 jurisdictions still criminalise same-sex relations. In many places discrimination and violence against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex persons is a daily occurrence. The EU repeats its call to all Governments around the world to abide by their international human rights commitments, to repudiate intolerance and to promote equality as enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other instruments.

On this day, the EU also wishes to pay homage to the courageous advocacy efforts carried out by human rights defenders, activists, media journalists, and civil society organisations to address the violations faced by LGBTI persons. Their work has been crucial every step of the way in putting these issues on the table, documenting abuses and advocating for the effective protection of fundamental human rights.

In line with the EU Guidelines on the rights of LGBTI persons and the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy, we will continue to work with all partners to advance the human rights of all around the world.

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IDAHOT 2016 Press Release

PRESS RELEASE

TO: All Media Houses

FROM: The Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana – LEGABIBO

DATE: 9 May 2016

RE: International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia – IDAHOT 2016 Commemorations

The 17th May commemorates the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). The event, billed as a worldwide celebration of sexual and gender diversity, commemorates the day in 1990 when the World Health Organization officially removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.  In the past, IDAHOT has been celebrated in more than 130 countries, including 37 where same-sex intimacy is illegal. Over the past years, the Botswana LGBTI community have been commemorating this historic event and have been supported by the community at large.

This year’s theme is dubbed “Mental Health and Wellbeing”. It is also important to take into account that even in societies which have officially moved away from the pathologisation of sexual orientation and gender identity, the assumption that same-sex attraction and gender expressions are mental illnesses remains one of the main underlying drivers of social stigmatization and exclusion of sexual and gender minorities, even when it is not explicit or even unconscious. In Botswana, there is still the belief that homosexuality is a mental illness that can be ‘cured’. LGBT are often taken to churches to be ‘exorcised’ as they are referred to as ‘ditlhodi’ by society. The religious community also has shared views that LGBTI communities are possessed by demons therefore there is a need to ‘pray the gay in them away’. Lesbian women are forced to endure what is deemed as ‘correctional rape’ by members of their families and the society with the intention to ‘turn them into normal women’. They are subjected to countless volumes of homophobic slurs and are even labelled as ‘mentally unstable and confused’, they are often referred to as ‘dirty and unclean creatures’. These factors often lead the LGBT to isolation, depression, loneliness, even suicide. LGBT end up engaging in substance abuse and even end up cutting themselves as a result of coping with the homophobia that they endure often.

In order to achieve sound mental health and wellbeing, one has to be assured of a protected environment that not only offers legal recognition but a social conducive environment that is non-discriminatory and is stigma free. Fundamental human rights and the Constitution of Botswana recognizes LGBTI people as persons and ensures protection from torture and inhumane treatment. This is why LEGABIBO as human rights defenders use IDAHOT as a platform to raise awareness and advocate for the LGBTI community’s wellbeing.

As part of this year’s commemorations, LEGABIBO and the LGBTI community and its allies have lined up a series of events.

  1. Social media engagement: We will engage on the theme on social media with the community as part of the celebrations. We will have video recorded messages on social media from Batswana pertaining to the theme of Mental Health and Wellbeing.
  2. Film screening and open dialogue: will also conduct a film screening and dialogue. We will have representatives from Boitekanelo College, Religious leaders and from the LGBTI community who will be a part of the panelists. This will take place at the University of Botswana library auditorium on 17th May 2016 from 5:30pm – 8pm.
  3. Radio Jingle: we will have a radio jingle on Yarona FM talking about Mental Health and Wellbeing of the LGBTI. The advert will start running on the 19th May for 4 weeks.
  4. Song and Dance Artivism: We will have the LGBT display their talents in form of music, drama, poetry and dance. LEGABIBO will also have an information stall present with information on LEGABIBO, IDAHOT and the LGBTI in Botswana

We do encourage we everyone to come and support us in all these different platforms. For further information, please contact Bradley Fortuin or Botho Maruatona on +267 316 7425 or 71340794

#IDAHOT

#MentalHealthAndWellbeing

#IDAHOT2016

#LEGABIBO

 

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SEEING BEYOND SEXUAL ORIENTATION: A clerical voice against discriminative religious discourse against homosexuals.

By: Rev. Maatla Sarah David

Abstract

Human sexuality is a field that is full of complexities especially that the highest percentages of human beings are oblivious of the existence of diverse sexualities within the human race. Within the web of human sexuality, though not limited to the following, we have homosexuality, heterosexuality, bisexuality, bestiality, trans- sexuality, Trans-serials, transgendered, pan romantics, biro antics, etc. However, within these, only heterosexuals are free to explore and exercise their sexuality without discrimination.   This could be attributable to the fact that the subject of sexuality is shadowed with secrecy, societal constructs and/or boundaries.  In effect, human relations are continually unsettled by misinformed discriminations, which in many cases are perpetuated by religious dictations rooting from ideologies, culture and stereotypes.  Unfortunately, to my observation, it appears that Christianity by intent or default, fuels discrimination against sexual minorities through its proclamations and monopolized ethical standards. Consequently, this kind of discrimination tends to destabilize the core and essence of coexistence, human equality, and dignity.   This qualifies discrimination to be one of the main global challenges to human stability.  Therefore, advocacy must reduce the theoretical approach against discrimination to the praxis; otherwise humanity will relegate itself to sub-humanity.

Introduction

Sexual minorities as a community within communities have been pushed to the margins of different societies.  They are considered as the ‘lepers’ of our time who have been ‘privileged’ to dwell amongst the ‘straight and pure’ but, with a huge price to pay for supposedly bringing a decline to morality and societal norms.   This assumption is legitimized by the religious assertion that homosexuality is a taint to God-human relations, an impurity that once contributed to the mass obliteration of nations such as Sodom and Gomorrah. Shockingly, the same societies that seek to preserve morality use immorality to address immorality.  As a point of interest, it appears that a seemingly immoral act of one threatens communality, yet a negative communal reaction to the act is not regarded as an element that weakens relationality.  I do not intend to promote homosexuality, for it is not my call.  I seek to highlight through this article, that, sexual orientation does not disqualify sexual minorities from being human.  They are part of creation, as such; they bear the imprint of God the creator hence the necessity to reverence the radiance of God on every human being.  Moreover, the seemingly privilege to belong to the heterosexual group neither provides immunity to sin nor elevates the state of humanness above that of homosexuals. All human beings are born equal in dignity and essence, and, sin goes beyond sexual activity.  My discussion will briefly cover  the subject of sexual orientation, The Bible and Homosexuality, inclusivity of Christ’s mission, Imago Dei, the ethical concept of Botho, Love, and Peace.

Human Sexuality and Sexual Orientation

Human sexuality refers to the blend of emotions, passion, behaviors, and physical involvements of human beings related to their sexual nature.  Therefore human beings are sexual beings because sexuality is intrinsic.  Tallied to sexuality is an element of sexual orientation which is genetically based by enfluence of hormones. So, an individual does not play a role in determining their sexual orientation or creation, it is a biological matter.  For example, if a female is given testosterone at a critical point during their development their exterior will be portrayed as male together with functionality.  Equally, if males are supplied with androgen blocker they develop female exterior.  Many of our people are born with both male and female genitals hence being forced to undergo a crisis of choice and identity which does not always correspond with societal expectations.  Some sociologists argue that there is nothing intrinsic about orientation because it is learnt, it is a lifestyle.  But many of our children display signs of homosexuality at very tender ages.  Orientation is not something we can evacuate out of a person, it is innate.  Just as it is injustice to turn a heterosexual into a homosexual, it must also be equally an injustice to attempt to turn a homosexual into a heterosexual.  In any case, we are human beings and being human goes beyond sexual orientation.  We all have a purpose to fulfill in the world besides exercising our sexuality.  So it is unreasonable to think that the lives of homosexuals begins and ends with sex, nothing less nothing more.  The apostle Paul wrote that we are predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will. We are all created by God, for God.  God trusted us to live together in harmony with our differences for the fulfillment of our purpose in the divine plan of God, as individuals and as the race.

The Bible and Homosexuality

Sexual behavior in the Old Testament was not taken for granted rather it was regulated because of its common alliance to paganism. It was also associated with societies synonymous with moral decadence and disobedience to the law.  Homosexuality was not only regarded as socially unacceptable but also as sinful.  With reference to Leviticus 18:22 “No man is to have sexual relations with another man; God hates that”, and, “They were enjoying themselves when all of a sudden some sexual perverts from the town surrounded the house and started beating on the door.  They said to the old man, “bring out that man that came with you, we want to have sex with him” (Judges 19:22). This is evidence of people involved in homosexuality; it was outlawed. The Torah has clear instruction against males wearing clothes tailored for women vise- versa, and considers it a shameful deed.

The society decides what is acceptable and what is not acceptable based on their level of knowledge and understanding, which then becomes a way of life. The culture then becomes a source of sacred scripture and the law. So it is for this reason that hermeneutic of suspicion ought to be applied because of impositions of preconceived human ideologies rooting from culture, evident in scripture. Everything is good in itself.  Sex is good in itself that is why God gave us the privilege to be sexual beings; but as in every act, it becomes problematic if it is abused. It is unethical for heterosexuals to engage in orgies, sex parties and equally unethical for a homosexual to have wild sexual desires. Many of the codes we use to legitimize oppression of homosexuals are cultural, normally rooting from hate or failure to embrace difference.  Hatred is not of God, God is wider that what we think and therefore we are not to be fazed by diversity in forms of creation nor be angered by the same.

Homosexuality has always existed in all cultures even in Botswana, we know that traditional doctors were normally in the company of assistants known as ‘Bo’Ra-kgetsi’ and homosexuality was acceptable for this kind of arrangement. The Roman power and intellect considered homosexuality as a higher order of sexual pleasure in the hierarchy of intimacy because of patriarchal mentality.  Homosexuality was the order of the day especially in medieval monasteries.  In some cultures like the Greek the true form of love was between a man and his youth.  In the late middle ages, homosexuality was either ignored or accepted.  This explains why Jesus and apostles did not dwell on the subject and why gay marriages persisted in Eastern Europe in the twentieth century.

Pauline epistles record the apostles Missional engagements with the people in Corinth. Corinth was a cosmopolitan city, a seaport and a major trade center-the most important city in Achaia. The economy was flourishing at the time and that brought a decline to morality which also manifested as sexual immorality of many forms. Homosexuality became the scapegoat. Therefore, there was need for Paul to respond to the problem because theology becomes relevant if it is contextualized.  Paul emphasized the sufficiency of grace through Christ, by faith.  The grace covers all human sins and vindicates us from the imprisonment of the law.  The grace covers all human beings despite their orientation to the inclusion of homosexuals.  Paul stated that God does not show favoritism.  If homosexuality is a matter of the law, and righteousness can only be gained through the law, then Christ died for nothing.  The baptism, which is not limited to the heterosexuals, clothes humanity with Christ, so I maintain that the grace is sufficient for all of us, by faith.

The Inclusivity of Christ’s Mission

Jesus demonstrated love in its purest form.  He embraced all people especially those in the margins, which is why he was born and lived amongst the expendables.  I am convicted that he could have taken the side of homosexuals if they were undergoing oppression at the time because Christianity stands for liberation.  Christianity is not a court of morality, it is responsive to injustice.  When there is injustice, it is not our duty to consider some technicalities; we take the side of the oppressed because we stand for love and peace.  Desmond Tutu emphasized the need to always take the side of the oppressed if we want justice and peace, he wrote, “if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality”.

The mission of Jesus dissolved alienations and broke down walls of hostility, and, crossed boundaries between individuals and groups.  Christians have the task of continuity of the mission of Jesus, the kind that resonates with his teachings and lifestyle. Theology concerns itself with relationships so theology of the vulnerable must be developed to give meaning to the Christian faith, inclusive of being merciful, compassionate and sensitive to the challenges of the marginalized. Salvation is not only limited to the soul, it is also about bringing healing, empowerment and restoration of dignity.

Imago Dei and Human Dignity

As the Psalmist says, the earth belongs to God and its fullness thereof.  God created man in his image and likeness, male and female he created (Genesis1:27).  Human beings are made in the image of God; therefore the image has to be revered.  This is done by protecting dignity of all men and embracing all that are created in the image of God.  Dignity qualifies human-hood; loss of dignity relegates the state of being human to something less human.  Therefore, dignity of fellow men has to be protected at all cost.  A human being is human because he/she is part of a network of dignified and stable social relationships.  Where wholeness is tempered with, there can be no peace between humanity and God.  This explains what Jesus meant in the statement, ‘what you do unto them you do it unto me’.  If we oppress homosexuals, we oppress Jesus and disrespect the image; after all, they are the creation of God and belong to God. It pleased God to create them and have them dwell amongst us.  To a certain extent it tests the measure of love that we Christian claim to have and boast about.  Yet we continually reject them and openly display the rejection.

The Ethical Concept of Botho and Authentic Love

Botho is a Sotho-Tswana word that refers to authentic humanness or the qualifying factor of being human. Basically this has to do with attributes expected of human beings which are higher than the physical aspect of a humanness.  It is that which makes one worthy to be called a human being. It is a line of distinction between human beings and animals.  Authentic humanness is found in the ability to reason with dignity and cognizance of the fact that we are interconnected, what affects one of us, affects all of us.  When we recognize our shared humanity, then peace is possible.  In the African context, sin is failure to relate well; wholeness is holiness.  Again, “Botho ke Bomodimo”.  ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest commandment’. (Matthew 22: 34-40). To love God is to love all that belongs to God unconditionally.  The second commandment is to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  ‘Our neighbor’ is not necessary limited to geographical location; it includes even those who are different from us.  Love embraces all as documented in the Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, “Love is patient and kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things”(Corinthians (13:1-7).  Therefore everything devoid of love renders every effort futile.  If love is found wanting in anything we do, we cannot please God.

Peace

A person of faith cannot be at peace if they are not in good relationships with one another.  I stand for the side that peace cannot be defined but rather described, so I describe peace as a state that humanity attains through wellbeing, with power to reproduce oneself with dignity and spiritually balance. The Merriam and Webster Collegiate Dictionary outline ingredients of peace which are; tranquility, freedom from emotional oppression, harmony in personal relations and pact of agreement to end hostilities. Humanity cannot claim to have peace if they live in a society characterized by divide; and where religion, power and dominance oppress others without regard for their emotional wellbeing. An oppressed person is one without freedom and ultimately one without peace. Discrimination of homosexuals disempowers them and a disempowered person is an unhappy person.  Dignity is also an ingredient of peace and if we continually embarrass our fellow men and women, we are stripping them of the dignity that our maker graciously gave them.  In the process we challenge the decisions of God unaware, through questioning sexual orientations which is not our purpose, we ought not to judge. Oftentimes there is need for compromise and acceptance of differences so as to be at peace with one another and God, Paul wrote, ‘Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ’ (Roman 5:1).  We did not earn the peace granted through Jesus, it is unmerited favor, so humanity should show appreciation by living in faith, peace and harmony.

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Botswana’s Identity Crisis: Where do we place the LGBTQ community?

By: Kaene Disepo

Botswana, well situated at the heart of Southern Africa, prides itself on being the ‘spirit’ of Africa, or perhaps the lesser of all evils in Africa. This is a country with a little over 2.5 million people, yet has already outpaced most of its African counterparts. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 2015 African Economic Outlook, Botswana’s ‘growth prospects look broadly favourable’. Moreover, The World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) 2014-2015 maintained Botswana’s ranking at 74th out of 144 countries, the fourth position in sub-Saharan Africa, though in 2015, it slipped to fifth position in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the World Economic Forum, ‘the decline is explained by the absence of improvements rather than worsening of policies compared to other fast-reforming countries in Africa’.

Of course, these observations are made through the lens of the economy, but what about its socio-cultural normative values; where does Botswana rank? A much more holistic, yet necessary analysis of Botswana’s progress as a thriving democratic nation, would be its ranking in the Human Development Index, which; ‘examines the intrinsic relationship between work and human development. Work, which is a broader concept than jobs or employment, can be a means of contributing to the public good, reducing inequality, securing livelihoods and empowering individuals. Work allows people to participate in the society and provides them a sense of dignity and worth. In addition, work that involves caring for others or voluntarism builds social cohesion and strengthens bonds within families and communities’ (Human Development Report 2015)

Using this analytical tool, Botswana registers on the medium human development, being number 6 in the continent and positioning it at 106 out of 188 countries and territories. However, delving deeper-and perhaps specifically- into the analytical framework, Botswana ranked 106 out of 155 countries from the newly introduced Gender Inequality Index and more worryingly, is its position on gay rights, from which homosexual activity in Botswana has been illegal and criminalized way before it gained independence. In fact, the only country in Africa which reigns supreme in gay rights is South Africa, our neighbor, having legalized same-sex marriage. Now then, can this issue be ‘explained by the absence of improvements rather than worsening of policies’ or this socio-cultural, even political debacle calls for a more robust and eclectic solution?

I argue that Botswana, the supposedly best governed and least corrupt African country, is experiencing an identity crisis, thus the incessant clash between policy-makers and public opinion. In psychiatry, identity crisis refers to a period of uncertainty and confusion in which a person’s sense of identity becomes insecure, typically due to a change in their expected aims or role in society. Botswana’s battling with her very own identity; of what it means to have Botswana values, to be a Motswana. According to globalisation theorists, the main narrative for identity politics is that there has been an increase in the salience of diverse local and transnational identities at the expense of both national identities and those broad class identities which were traditionally handled by the nation-state. These, include the surge of new social movements such as the civil rights movements, feminist movement, environmentalists, and even the LGBT movements, which centers freedom of sexual preference to be an intrinsic human right. In the case for Botswana, its identity has greatly changed from its pre-colonial period, all the way to post-colonial legacy; not just in the form of formal education and promotion of democratic principles through political elections, but also in fashion, literature and the economy. We seem to have embraced a myriad of these paradigm shifting identities; the women empowerment voice is ever so vociferous, the youth advocates continue their battle, we have integrated into the capitalist world economy. However, social attitudes when it comes to peculiar normative issues are still painted in a negative light. So, who should we look to for a solution?

Incredibly, on the 16th of March, this year, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of LEGABIBO for it to be registered as a society by the Registrar of Societies. This was an ongoing battle from which Government argued that recognition of the Lesbians & Gays of Botswana was against the Constitution of Botswana and veered away from the norms and values of Batswana. Gay rights has been a topic feared in mainstream politics, with the current governing party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)-a party which has most of its safe seats in constituencies where voter turnout reflects a higher age range- having shied away from. Nonetheless, there has been several voices-prominent and some, surprising- for legalising homosexuality in Botswana. For instance, the former Botswana president, Festus Mogae, has spoken in support of LGBT rights in Africa. In an interview with African Renewal, Mogae maintained that, ‘While I admit that the West often push their agendas on Africa, which we must be wary of, I also believe that we must, as Africans, admit that the world is changing…This means often abandoning some of our long-held convictions about life.’ Indeed, this is so, Batswana must stop cherry-picking when to use the ‘imperialistic’ argument especially on issues which promotes positive freedom. Moreover, other prominent voices have been from first female and former Speaker of Parliament, Dr. Margaret Nasha, and even some of the religious figures have gave their support- a positive note in the reaction against chauvinistic, religious underpinnings of why gay rights are socially abhorrent.

This is a complex social phenomenon that requires robust and eclectic ways of dealing with it. From the grassroots, Guidance and Counselling in schools need to address issues of the LGBT community under the guise of a civic society. Policy-makers need to refrain from cherry-picking what to include in the so-called ‘Moral and Tolerant Nation’ and really act on what it preaches. Although, Botswana is not as extreme as the likes of Somalia, Congo or even her neighbor, Zimbabwe, there is a need for paradigm shifting ideologies on their approach of social inclusion. Education can never be over emphasised, however, even taking a firm stance in mainstream is essential. The unfortunate truth is, we are power-hungry and thus tread carefully when it comes to issues considered an abomination. Just a caution, Female Genital Mutilation, child marriages, slavery, racial segregation, patriarchy, well all-some still are in some parts of the world-considered legitimate under the guise of social justice. Continuing to react against communities which begs for social inclusion, recognition of their inalienable rights (by virtue of being citizens), will only highlight the regressive nature of this country. The LGBTQ community, also deserve a place in the sun, it is morally just and it is fundamental of their human rights.

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