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OPEN LETTER TO HIS EXCELLENCY DR. MASISI

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Members of the LGBT community in Botswana want to thank you for your leadership and particularly for this acknowledgement you made in your 16 Days of Activism Against violence commemorative speech:

“There are also many people of same-sex relationships in this country who have been violated and have also suffered in silence for fear of being discriminated. Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected.”

We are writing this letter to thank you for these three meaningful lines. Your Excellency, members of our community appreciate your affirmation and mentioning of our community’s ordeals and suffering, your public acknowledgement of violations directed at members of our community, and your recognition of the discrimination and the resultant fear generated by all these. We could not have phrased it better.

We are incredibly grateful to hear our sitting President speak openly and publicly on the need to protect those in same-sex relationships who have been violated. We are pleased that you named aloud the violence that members of our community suffer in their daily lives.

We are writing this letter to encourage you to continue your efforts in ensuring that the human rights of ALL PERSONS are upheld regardless of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. This is an example of good governance and respecting the rule of law.

Mr. President, we also request you take additional steps to ensure that the country and people you are leading follow your example.

We urge you to:
1. Raise expectations within your Parliament of zero-tolerance of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, verbal or otherwise.

2. Make efforts to decriminalise consensual same-sex relationships. Section 164 of our Penal code fuels the violence, discrimination, suffering and the fear you mentioned. We are particularly interested in what you will do about this section of the law. Because this unjust law is the basis of violence directed at members of our community, your planned actions regarding this matter are our primary and highest interest.

3. Address the gender markers on our birth certificates, Omang and passports. These markers are problematic and cause your fellow citizens who identify as transgender and gender non-conforming to experience discrimination in all walks of life.

4. Protect members of the LGBTI community from public violence and humiliation. Just recently, a transgender woman was disrobed and humiliated in public. Public spaces in this country are not safe for members of our community. How can Botswana globally compete when it has so much violence against some of its citizens?

5. Protect members of our community against those religious leaders who fuel hatred toward LGBTI persons. While we respect sincerely-held faiths in Botswana, we cannot condone those who preach inflammatory, discriminatory messages toward those who only seek to love members of the same sex.

6. Make a statement to all civil servants (teachers, healthcare workers, police and all service providers) that LGBTI people are citizens of this country, and like all other citizens, cannot be denied services available to the general public.

Members of the LGBTI community in Botswana are looking to you for leadership and a new approach to issues concerning sexual orientation and gender identity. We sincerely hope this approach affirms the humanity and existence of LGBTI persons as you so recently demonstrated.
In conclusion, Your Excellency, we ask you to make it clear to all politicians that members of the LGBTI community are not amused hearing that politicians who support our rights will lose elections; hearing that we are to blame for lack of rain; and hearing religious and cultural doctrines that seek to disempower us. However, like you, we are interested in open dialogue to promote the human rights of LGBTI.

PROTECT. PROMOTE. DEFEND.

With gratitude,

On behalf of Members of the LGBTI Community in Botswana

LEGABIBO

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