Inside Botswana NGOs report to UN Human Rights Council

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Report exposes Botswana’s human rights record

TEFO PHEAGE

Botswana civil society groups have sent their Universal Periodic Review report to the United Nations Human Rights Council which is a summation of Botswana’s record of human rights record.
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) NGO Working Group comprises of DITSHWANELO – The Botswana Centre for Human Rights, The Botswana Council of Non-Governmental Organizations (BOCONGO), Kuru Family of Organizations (Kuru), Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Botswana and Rainbow Identity Association (RIA).
Under Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, the report says that “Botswana has still not decriminalized same-sex relations in the country, despite having registered LeGaBiBo after a lengthy court case and having amended the Employment Act to include non-discrimination based on sexual orientation in the work place.”
“There are no mechanisms in place to ensure that transgender people are able to change their documentation once they have transitioned. There is no training for service provider on how to assist people who want to transition, who are in the process of transitioning and those who have transitioned,” states the report.
Executions and Notification to Families
In the previous UPR Cycle, Botswana accepted the recommendations to inform the families of the death row inmate before the execution occurs and to hold a public debate on the death penalty. The report says both of these have not been done despite the recommendations having been accepted.
Children and Mother-Tongue in Schools
The NGOs group say there is a need for mother-tongue education in schools as children are only taught in Setswana or English and this makes learning difficult for those children whose mother-tongue is not either of the two mediums of teaching. “Children in areas where the mother-tongue is not Setswana often drop out of school at a young age because they are unable to speak any of the two languages. The government should introduce mother-tongue education in schools around the country and also provide training for teachers so that they are able to teach in the different languages, the report suggests.
On Citizenship
Botswana does not allow for dual-citizenship after the age of 21 years, and this has resulted in situations where people particularly children become ‘stateless’. The constitution of Botswana does not expressly provide for the right to nationality. The Botswana Children’s Act of 2009, however, does provide for this right by stating in Section 12 that “every child has a right to a nationality from birth.”
Government, the NGOs group said, should sign and ratify the 1961 Convention on Reduction of Statelessness to ensure development of legislation and regulations which ensure every child’s right to a nationality and that no child is born stateless in Botswana as well as universal birth registration for all children born in Botswana, particularly foundlings, those born to migrants and undocumented persons.
They further recommended that Botswana should implement a provision in the law which protects children who are born stateless in the territory, pursuant to Botswana’s obligations under article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and Article 7 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.
Botswana’s domestic law provides that a child found in the territory of the state shall, in the absence of proof to the contrary, be considered to have been born within that territory to parents of that country’s nationality.
Sex Workers homosexuals and HIV and Aids
The report says despite the production of the strategy there are still areas which need to be addressed by the government and other stakeholders. “These areas include ensuring that key populations such as those living with HIV/AIDS, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), the LGBTIQ community and sex workers are included in the implementation of the national strategy,” reads the report. There is also need to train service providers on how to assist members of key populations who are vulnerable to contracting HIV/AIDS or those who have contracted HIV/AIDS.
On Unsustainable Poverty Eradication Strategy
According to the report Botswana has various programmes including a national strategy meant to alleviate poverty in Botswana, but these programmes do not provide a lasting solution to poverty alleviation as they do not promote lasting solutions for individuals.
The report states that there is inadequate awareness amongst the public on the national poverty strategy and the programmes currently in place do not provide a long-term solution for poverty alleviation and civil society is not included in the implementation of the national strategy as well as in the implementation of existent programmes.
“There is need to increase awareness about the national poverty alleviation strategy and the programmes being implemented and to review the current strategy on poverty and amend it to include long-term solutions to poverty alleviation,” reads the report.
Protection of Human Rights
During the second cycle of the Universal Periodic Review, Botswana accepted the recommendation to establish a National Human Rights Institution (NHRI). Upon accepting this recommendation, Botswana stated that it would establish a hybrid NHRI by enforcing human rights mandate on the Office of the Ombudsman.
The report however says there is need for government to establish a wholly independent body other than the Ombudsman which is under the Office of the President. “The Office of the Ombudsman is currently under Office of the President and handles issues related to the administration of justice. It is not truly clear if it will be possible to be truly independent institution once it begins dealing with human rights issues,” the report reads.
According to the report, “The Office of the Ombudsman has previously been slow at resolving cases which have been presented before it and has also spent a majority of the time going into the public to explain what the Office of the Ombudsman does.”
“This begs the question of whether the office will have the capacity to handle both issues related to the administration of justice and human rights issues. Also, how does the office intend to inform the public about the human rights mandate being in that office and guarantee its independence from government?” asks the report.
The report says there is a need for human rights education and awareness-raising in Botswana. The NHRI should have a focus on educating the public on human rights and where to go when those rights are violated.
Basarwa and CKGR
The report says “That the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights and fundamental freedoms of indigenous peoples, Mr James Anaya has recommended that the Basarwa and Bakgalagadi communities from the Central Kalahari Game Reserve … be allowed to engage in subsistence hunting and gathering in accordance with traditional practices.” This is despite the government’s hunting ban in alleged protection of wildlife.
The report recommends that “government should continue to explore, together with the Basarwa/San, the continuation of traditional hunting and gathering cultural practices, based on indigenous (traditional) knowledge systems and review the hunting ban in relation to the Basarwa/San community as it is part of their livelihood to hunt.”  The Botswana government will also make presentation on the same issues and answer questions from fellow states.
The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has a unique mandate from the international community to promote and protect all human rights. The UPR is a unique process which involves a review of the human rights records of all UN member states. At this forum set for next year, each state declares what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfil their human rights obligations.