|Stephane Tchakam, Charge de Communication Pan Africa ILGA|
Members of the gay community are taking the government to court to challenge the constitutionality of its anti-sodomy laws. BONELA Director Uyapo Ndadi confirmed in an interview with The Gazette that they would challenge Section 164 of the Penal Code that criminalizes same sex relationships. It is understood that gays want the provision to be declared unconstitutional.
“Yes I can confirm that plans are underway and drafting is almost complete. We are ready to file the papers before Court,” said Ndadi.
In 2005 gays attempted to register their association, the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), with the Registrar of Societies, but their application was turned down in 2007 on the grounds that the republican Constitution does not recognize homosexuals.
At a press conference last week the Deputy Director of Civil and National Registration, Michael Mohautsi, confirmed that they received an application from the gay society and revealed that because homosexuality is a crime under the Penal Code the association could not be registered. “Any body that is contrary to the Constitution of Botswana cannot be registered” he said.
At the press briefing Minister of Labour and Home Affairs Peter Siele said he was not aware of any organized group of homosexuals in Botswana. “To tell you the truth, I am not aware of any group of homosexuals.”
Siele said as a parent it was difficult for him to talk about legalizing such acts. “I would find it difficult to go around Kgotla meetings advocating for the legalization of such things,” he said.
LEGABIBO has issued a press release condemning politicians and people who are against homosexuals saying African leaders and religious groups seem to promote homophobia for very cynical and selfish reasons.
“Politicians use the rhetoric against same sex behaviour to detract people from the real issues facing their countries such as HIV/AIDS, poverty and human rights abuses.”
The release states that gays are accused of being responsible for the moral decay in their society while leaders are silent about human rights abuses and undemocratic tendencies that are perpetrated by state agencies.
“Religious leaders in Botswana, especially evangelists, have been duped by their western counterparts into implementing an agenda that has little to do with improving the moral fibre of Africa; the balance of power is now firmly in the hands of the statesman.”
The group says homosexuality is not a sin or choice, but a combination of genetic, hormonal and societal development that cannot be changed by medicine or prayer.
The gay issue has been making headlines in the press with some Members of Parliament, among them Tonota South MP Pono Moatlhodi, publicly rejecting the legalization of homosexuality.