Members of the LGBTIQ community in Botswana say that politicians are using homophobic vitriol to attack their opponents in a dangerous election ploy.
LGBTIQ group Legabibo has condemned homophobic statements by a politician in an article published by The Midweek Sun on 16 October, titled Homophobic Leaders! – Opposition politicians don’t want gays, lesbians.
In it, independent parliamentary candidate Jafta Radibe said that “homosexuality is not a Setswana culture” and that “the President of the Republic of Botswana owes the nation an explanation how he came to legalize same-sex relations.”
He also stated that the recent court ruling decriminalising homosexuality in Botswana “didn’t go through parliament and went through a backdoor.”
The politician further said that “When a man sleeps with another man, his anus gets loose and in the long term, he will have to wear diapers.”
Radibe also asserted that “I hear some of them became gays because of the love of money” and that “gays initiate others.”
The comments ahead of the general elections on 23 October are proof that violence and discrimination towards the community are fuelled by some community leaders, Legabibo said.
“Sexual diversity has been with us since the beginning of time and one identifying as LGBTIQ is natural. What is not a part of our Setswana culture is hate, disrespect and exclusion of Batswana,” commented Matlhogonolo Samsam, Media Advocacy & Communications Officer for Legabibo.
Radibe was accused of undermining the legitimacy and independence of the courts. “The judiciary plays a vital role in ensuring that laws are followed and constitutional rights of all Batswana are protected,” said Samsam.
“Community leaders need to acknowledge the diversity of our society and that all Batswana are entitled to enjoy their fundamental rights to freedoms of expression and identity and the rights to liberty and sexual autonomy.”
The organisation believes that Radibe’s comments are misleading and contribute to dangerous misconceptions about LGBTQ people.
“There is no such thing as recruiting and initiating people into homosexuality,” said Samsam. “Lastly, religion is not to be used as a weapon of hate towards LGBTIQ individuals, but needs to be used to promote inclusion, love and Botho [humanity and respect]!”
Legabibo cautioned politicians to refrain from “using the LGBTIQ community to ‘decampaign’ other politicians, but rather one should be able to stand on their own merit, quality and worth.”
On 11 June, the Botswana High Court made history when it found that criminalising homosexuality is unconstitutional. While the decision remains in force for now, the attorney general has lodged an appeal against the ruling.