Assistant Minister Botlhogile Tshireletso
A government minister in Botswana has urged the country to stop discriminating against gays and lesbians and to consider decriminalising homosexuality.
According the Mmegi Online, Assistant Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Botlhogile Tshireletso, spoke out about the LGBT community during the budget speech delivered by the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Kenneth Matambo, earlier this month.
“Batswana are ready to talk about some of these things because they said they want to be a tolerant society. We should stop discrimination of these minority groups,” Tshireletso said.
She pointed out that the country’s Vision 2016 document calls for “a tolerant nation” and greater tolerance and acceptance of differences between people.
MP Pius Mokgware said he agreed with the minister, adding that, “We should live in the times. We cannot discriminate people according to their sexual orientation, the minister is on point.”
The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV (BONELA) applauded Tshireletso’s comments and noted that she has supported the LGBT community for a number of years.
“BONELA agrees that it is time for Batswana to talk about homosexuality to ensure that no one is left behind when it comes to policies and laws that affects Batswana including the LGBT community, especially in the health care where LGBT are prone to stigma and discrimination,” said the group.
Caine Youngman, BONELA LGBTI Advocacy Officer, called on more leaders “to add their voices in support of the LGBT in Botswana and encourage Batswana to practice tolerance and non stigma and discrimination towards the LGBTI.”
While homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Botswana, gay people could be prosecuted under Section 164 of the Penal Code that bars “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature,” with penalties including seven years in prison.
The Botswana government has repeatedly refused to recognise the country’s LGBT rights group, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), as an NGO and recently appealed a 2014 court ruling ordering it to do so. The Gaborone High Court of Appeal has yet to issue its ruling on the matter.
In January, Festus Mogae, the former president of Botswana, said that African leaders who refuse to acknowledge LGBT rights are “selfish” and have the “wrong mentality.”