Defence, Justice and Security Minister, Ramadeluka Seretse, will next week appear before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva to answer charges of human rights abuse leveled against Botswana’s current government.
The charge sheet, prepared by Ditshwanelo, a Human Rights Organization, and other local NGOs was submitted as a joint report painting a picture of flagrant human rights abuse in Botswana.
Charges leveled against the Botswana government include disenfranchisement prisoners, denial of ARV treatment to non citizens, criminalization of homosexuality and abuse of Basarwa living in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR).
Failure to establish an Independent Human Rights Institution to address complaints from members of the public who feel their rights have been violated was also listed.
In an interview with The Sunday Standard, Seretse, who is a lawyer by profession, confirmed that he will personally appear before the UNHRC to respond to queries of human rights abuse during Botswana’s second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) under the auspices of Human Rights Council.
The UPR is a unique process which involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States. The UPR is a significant innovation of the Human Rights Council, which is based on equal treatment for all countries.
It provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe. Currently, no other mechanism of this kind exists.
Same sex acts are punishable in Botswana with a jail term of up to 7 years. Section 164 – 167 of the nation’s Penal code outlaws homosexuality, displays of same sex acts or attempts to have carnal knowledge ‘against the order of nature’ which has been used to mean homosexuality.
In 2010 and 2011, former Botswana President Festus Mogae spoke out against sexual discrimination, saying prejudice was hindering efforts to fight HIV in a country where one in four adults had HIV.
The US State Department’s 2011 Human Rights Report found that, “The country has no law explicitly criminalizing consensual same-sex sexual activity. However, what the law describes as ‘unnatural acts’ are criminalized, and there is widespread belief this is directed toward gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender persons. Police did not target same-sex activity, and there were no reports of violence against persons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity during the year.”
Botswana key LGBT organization, Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo) has had its registration rejected by the Government saying that it "was likely to be used for any unlawful purpose or any purpose prejudicial to or incompatible with peace, welfare or good order in Botswana".
However, the country’s Employment Act has prohibited employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation since 2010.