International Women’s Day: A Call for Parity

As we commemorate the International Women’s Day, we acknowledge all the efforts into archiving gender parity Botswana being signatories to International human rights law that protect the rights of women. These changes have gone a long way in addressing patriarchal policies and laws that have oppressed and dictated the non-involvement of women in the development of our country. Great strides towards overcoming these adversities have been made. Today we have women leading in the political, economic, social and cultural sectors. However BONELA notes that these were only focused on privileged cis gendered women but exclude lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LBT) women who are often left out in mainstream women’s movements, meaning that they have not, and are still not included in policies and programmes that are meant for the advancement of women’s rights and equality as per the Gender Parity Index.

The Gender Parity Index (GPI) measures the relative access and progress of education of males and females in developing countries. But this desegregation does not acknowledge sexual orientation and gender identity and expression; this normative-boxing which leaves those who are gender non- conforming, transvestite, bisexual, lesbian and intersex. We therefore argue that it is a bit premature to consider the index an accurate measure when these individuals are excluded.

Secondly the GPI’s focus on heterosexual women extenuates a sense of privilege our heteronormative society has bestowed upon particular types of women. This generalization of “women” overlooks diversity based on sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. It overlooks the fact that LBT women are not recognized in educational institutions. The problems they face such as stigma and discrimination stemming from education policies and laws are not paid attention to thus creating a stifling learning environment for LBT persons.

LBT activists, organizations, and allies have noted gradual, successful trends globally, of inclusion of LBT; however there is silence in Botswana regarding the discrimination of young LBT persons in schools. There is silence in the teacher’s curriculum, on how teachers can provide support for young LBT women. This silence has contributed to violence that LBT women face such as bullying, stigma and discrimination, verbal abuse, sexual and physical violence which negatively impact on the fundamental human right of access to education. This disparity evidently affect the education of LBT women because these young LBT women are taught to be ashamed of their being, hide their sexuality, that they are not abnormal and unnatural. These violations go unpunished and are hidden by the face of patriarchy aided by gender parity that continues to emphasize misguided heteronormative ideologies.

We wish to remind the women’s movement in Botswana and the government that gender equality goes beyond numbers and tokenism and parading educated, privileged cis gendered women. Gender equality is a fundamental human right, it means prioritizing the human rights of the most disadvantaged and vulnerable women in our society. It means talking about urgent human rights issues that women face, addressing barriers to education. It means respecting, protecting, promoting and fulfilling the needs of the few women who are different.

#Pledgeforparity means re-committing to tearing down the barriers that LBT women face and raising awareness on women who are missing in the gender parity agenda.

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