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British Gov’t funds gay campaign

British’s High Commissioner to Botswana, Nick Pyle

The British High Commission in Gaborone is aiding policy shift regarding lesbians, gays and bisexuals in Botswana.


The commission recently pumped money in support of a policy dialogue by the Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and the Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana whose aim was to enhance more debate on influencing perceptions and challenged Botswana’s legislative framework on dealing with lesbians, gays, intersex, bisexual, and the transgendered people.


WeekendPost has established that the parties had been unsettled by the recent Afro-barometer study which indicated that most Batswana disapprove homosexuality. Notwithstanding this, the dialogues come in the wake of a firm stance by Botswana government that prohibits and criminalizes consensual same-sex relationships.


The United States of America (USA) and Britain are well known unreserved advocacy and protection of human rights including homosexuality and prostitution. The advancement of the debate in Botswana by the British High Commission is seen by some observers as falling short of purely advancing the same sex relations.


In an interview with the WeekendPost this week, British’s High Commissioner to Botswana, Nick Pyle stated that the debate has nothing to do with promoting one particular lifestyle over another. “Nor is it about forcing anyone to change their beliefs.

It is about choice and tolerance of difference,” he added.  From a human rights point of view, it is simply about protecting the right of all members of society to live their lives free from discrimination and the fear of violence, Pyle emphasized.


He cautioned against believing that talking about homosexuality is a Western agenda. “It is being talked about by all sorts of people in all sorts of places here in Botswana. People from a wide range of different backgrounds were at BONELA’s recent event,” he highlighted. As the trends in the recent Afro-barometer survey suggest, Pyle said, attitudes are changing and the debate is likely to increase in intensity.


“This debate must be grounded on human rights principles. This is not about tradition, culture or religion. I have the utmost respect for all of those. Often they help to build strong societies. But when people put them up as excuses to avoid the debate, that tells us that they don’t fully understand, or don’t want to understand the issue,” he added.


Pyle stressed that there are too many harrowing tales of people who have suffered physical violence or simply been excluded as a result of their sexual orientation, and indeed other personal characteristics or beliefs that society chooses to brand as “different.” “The United Kingdom’s support for human rights is about challenging that. Simply put, it is the belief that no-one should be left behind,” he said.


The UK Commissioner however would not say whether their agenda with BONELA would not likely cause uneasiness especially to the Botswana government which has a strong stance against homosexuality as espoused by its policy documents and some legislative frameworks including the country’s penal code.


Pyle only emphasized that the United Kingdom has made a strong global commitment to supporting human rights for all. “We believe that we will all be safer and better off if we put human rights at the heart of our values,” he said.


“But equally, here – as everywhere else – there is room to advance human rights further. And I believe the way in which the LGBTI community is viewed is one area where Batswana need to have a debate. Indeed, that is something that the Botswana government undertook to consider during a discussion at the Human Rights Council in 2013,” the UK High Commissioner said.


According to the BONELA policy paper, the policy dialogues was meant to promote social justice as a strategy and to advance and promote civil rights entitlements as enshrined in the Botswana constitution to influence policy and increased social protection for the LGBTI community in Botswana.


“The dialogue further seeks to propel a national discourse by facilitating broad societal tolerance that conforms to the natural laws of ‘botho’ and human rights principles which recognizes and provides a conducive environment for all citizens of this country to fully participate in the social, economic and political spheres of life, irrespective of sexual orientation, ethnic origin, gender, gender identity, possessions, race, religion or any other categorization,” it further stated.


British government and BONELA partnership

According to the BONELA Director, Cindy Kelemi, the duo (BONELA and British government) share one thing in common- promoting human rights. She said sexual orientation and gender identity are human rights issues, “It’s about the right to be treated with dignity and not discriminated against, irrespective of your identity, she said.


“The British Commission therefore supported BONELA financially to conduct a policy dialogue to create awareness among policy makers on these issues as a step towards policy and legal reform,” posited Kelemi. She further added that dialogues are principles inherent in our culture, which is why they continue to pursue Botswana government using the same cultural principles with the hope that government will change its stance.


She said they are encouraged by the fact that they have support from a network of other institutions (like UK High Commission) that truly believe in the promotion, protection, and fulfillment of human rights. She highlighted that they will continue engaging government on decriminalization of same sex and sex work. The policy dialogue, she said was one of the many steps in engaging government on policy reform.

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