A fresh study by Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) has spotlighted some gaps in various laws, policies and frameworks which hinder prevention, treatment and care efforts while violating human rights of people living with HIV & AIDS.
A report titled ‘Assessment of legal and regulatory framework for HIV, AIDS and Tuberculosis,’ released last week is calling on the government to review a plethora of laws that trample on basic human rights. At the fore front of the study are the Public Health Act and Penal code which, according to the report, discriminate and violate the rights of HIV/AIDS patients.
The study was focused on the key and vulnerable populations including “gay men and other men who have sex with men, Lesbians Gays Bisexuals Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) people, sex workers, migrants, prisoners and remote area dwellers.” The study’s findings are concerned by the law criminalizing some aspects of sex work as it inhibits labour regulation and access to police protection, health services and legal remedies when rights violation occur.
It has been revealed that approximately 75% of sex workers are locals while 25% are immigrants, though the two groups share clients. “HIV prevalence amongst Zimbabwean female sex workers is 69.5% and 57.7% amongst Batswana female sex workers.” The report continues; “Basic rights afforded to other workers are also denied to sex workers because of criminalization as illegal work does not afford the protections that legal work requires, such as occupational health and safety standards.”
BONELA study has also punched holes on the biased penal code of Botswana which criminalizes living off the earnings of sex work, brothel keeping, idle or disorderly public conduct. This, the report argue; will lead to victimization and societal marginalization of sex workers by perpetuating stigma, violence, harassment, blackmail and discrimination.
While homosexuality is not illegal in Botswana consensual sexual conduct between adults of the same sex is a criminal offence. Section 167 of the penal code prohibits “unnatural offences” and “indecent practices”. Carnal knowledge which is against the order of nature makes one criminally liable with a possibility of serving five years in prison.
It has been suggested to legislators that they should repeal laws that criminalize consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex. Botswana, regarded as one of free and fair countries that uphold basic human rights, has also been encouraged to “review laws and regulations including nuisance, public disorder, cross-dressing, impersonation and similar offences, which are used to target, harass, and commit human rights abuse against LGBTIs.”
The 145 paged report has also highlighted that the persons in custody are also neglected due to high levels of stigma, lack of investment and political will. “Prisoners and persons in custody are at high risk of HIV infection due to sexual violence, unsafe sexual practices and unsafe drug injection,” states the report.
BONELA has pleaded with lawmakers to amend the penal code to decriminalize consensual sex between adults of the same sex. Further it has been recommended that “regardless of the legality of consensual sex between adults of the same sex, provide protective barriers including condoms, dental dams and lubricants to all prisoners to ensure that they have the means to protect themselves from HIV and STIs.”
Persons living in remote areas in Botswana are also experiencing challenges in accessing all health services including HIV and TB related health services. The study observes that some of the challenges are accessing information on preventive strategies and intervention programmes and limited access to condoms and protective barriers. The report has indicated that Basarwa who were resettled in New Xade experienced increased HIV and TB prevalence.
“Some remote area dwellers live on private farms while others live in resettlement areas. Key informants indicated that those living on private farms may have to travel great distances to access health centers, in some cases 100km or more.” This has prompted the human rights organization to push the government to implement a specific policy framework and programmes that address the health needs of remote area dwellers. “Provide through law and policies provisions that specifically protect the rights of remote area dwellers, including the right to non-discrimination and non-discriminatory access to health services,” suggested the report.
The criminalization of sodomy, nuisance and other laws stigmatize LGBTI people and makes them vulnerable to blackmail, illegal detention and other discrimination. Botswana by criminalizing this is against the rights protected International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and impedes health-seeking behavior. Penalizing consensual sexual acts between persons of the same sex interfere with the right to privacy.
The human rights committee has specifically recommended that Botswana repeal the sodomy and other penal code provisions that criminalize consensual sexual activity between consenting adults. Findings of the study have been shared with the legislators to try to repeal some laws which discriminate the key and vulnerable populations. Failure to review some of these laws then the government’s aspiration to register zero infections remains a pie in the sky, the report warns.
Botswana Police Service (BPS) has indicated concern about the ongoing trend where the general public falls victim to criminals purporting to be police officers.
According to BPS Assistant Commissioner, Dipheko Motube, the criminals target individuals at shopping malls and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) where upon approaching the unsuspecting individual the criminals would pretend to have picked a substantial amount of money and they would make a proposal to the victims that the money is counted and shared in an isolated place.
“On the way, as they stop at the isolated place, they would start to count and sharing of the money, a criminal syndicate claiming to be Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officer investigating a case of stolen money will approach them,” said Motube in a statement.
The Commissioner indicated that the fake police officers would instruct the victims to hand over all the cash they have in their possession, including bank cards and Personal Identification Number (PIN), the perpetrators would then proceed to withdraw money from the victim’s bank account.
Motube also revealed that they are also investigating a case in which a 69 year old Motswana woman from Molepolole- who is a victim of the scam- lost over P62 000 last week Friday to the said perpetrators.
“The Criminal syndicate introduced themselves as CID officers investigating a case of robbery where a man accompanying the woman was the suspect.’’
They subsequently went to the woman’s place and took cash amounting to over P12 000 and further swindled amount of P50 000 from the woman’s bank account under the pretext of the further investigations.
In addition, Motube said they are currently investigating the matter and therefore warned the public to be vigilant of such characters and further reminds the public that no police officer would ask for bank cards and PINs during the investigations.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) leadership walked out of Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting this week on account of being targeted by other cooperating partners.
UDC meet for the first time since 2020 after previous futile attempts, but the meeting turned into a circus after other members of the executive pushed for BCP to explain its role in media statements that disparate either UDC and/or contracting parties.
The Director General of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crimes (DCEC), Tymon Katlholo’s spirited fight against the contentious transfers of his management team has forced the Office of the President to rescind the controversial decision. However, some insiders suggest that the reversal of the transfers may have left some interested parties with bruised egos and nursing red wounds.
The transfers were seen by observers as a badly calculated move to emasculate the DCEC which is seen as defiant against certain objectionable objectives by certain law enforcement agencies – who are proven decisionists with very little regard for the law and principle.