Recent legal battles in favor of the plight of LGTBI community like that which compelled government to allow the registration of LEGABIBO may present a picture that Botswana may be finally relenting its tough stance but this is far from the truth as she (Botswana) recently voted against a resolution of the United Nations calling for nations to consider the standards by which they impose the death penalty. Although the fact that Botswana is a staunch supporter of capital punishment is old news, here is the catch – included in the list of “crimes” punishable by death, homosexuality is included in some countries, hence by extension Botswana too support it. The United Nations Human Rights Council voted 27-13 to condemn capital punishment in a variety of cases which subsequently means that Botswana and countries such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar and allegedly the United States of America, who had voted against the resolution were nonetheless defeated.
Local renowned human rights lawyer Uyapo Ndadi when reacting to the news, accused Botswana of sending mixed signals on the matter and in violations of human rights. “When the news reached me about the decision of Botswana on this score, I found it unbelievable and shocking. I thought Botswana was moving towards promoting human rights, that is why we hailed the decision to deport Pastor Anderson who was speaking in favour of what government did. We are sending mixed signals and we are also regressing. The time has come to accept people the way they are provided that their conduct is not harmful to the next person or to self! We surely can do better than this,” said Ndadi.
Contacted for comment, government spokesperson Jeff Ramsay revealed that although he didn’t know much about the vote, he wasn’t surprised because of Botswana’s clear stance towards death penalty. He referred this publication to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International relations for further clarity. Efforts to contact the Ministry’s public relations unit proved futile as their phones rang unanswered. WikiLeaks disclosed last year that the Botswana Office of the President believes that homosexuality offends Botswana’s traditions and culture.
The Botswana Penal Code lists homosexual acts as Offences in Division III: Offences against Morality:
Section 164: “Any person who… has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” or “permits any other person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years”. Section 165: “Any person who attempts to commit any of the offences specified in section 164 is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years”. Section 167: “Any person who, whether in public or private, commits any act of gross indecency with another person, or procures another person to commit any act of gross indecency with him or her, or attempts to procure the commission of any such act by any person with himself or herself or with another person, whether in public or private, is guilty of an offence”.