When one day, I was in a taxi bus with my gay friends, a passenger talked about things that are offensive to Botswanan culture. He stated that ‘the youth of today’ are imitating the Western lifestyle. When the driver brought up the issue of homosexuality, the bus became a podium of indirect remarks aimed at us. Most of the passengers said that this ‘fashion’ needs to be detoxed and discouraged, and that the only way to stop men from behaving like women and vice versa is to speak strongly against it. I felt completely violated and helpless. We only needed transport, and suddenly we were amidst strangers criticising us with hurtful remarks. In our culture, we are expected to be silent when grown-ups speak. Had we dared to comment, they would have talked about ‘kids of nowadays who don’t even have manners, gay as they are’.
We only needed transport, and suddenly we were amidst strangers criticising us
While in Uganda an anti-gay bill has been signed recently, in Botswana the situation around LGBT has been acting like a ‘can of worms’ that nobody really wanted to open. Even in the penal code that addresses homosexuality, one has to use a magnifying glass to read between the lines because it remains unclear whether homosexuality is illegal in our country or not. As a result, many homosexuals hide their feelings, justifying this by saying that the LGBT community is lucky and that they should be grateful that Botswana is not too extreme. They don’t want to complain about unfair treatment.
My organisation LeGaBiBo is playing a very important role in raising awareness to the public about LGBT issues. We organize meetings with ‘dikgosi’, which are chiefs acting as traditional leaders for different tribes, trying to break the communication barrier between homosexuality and tradition. But LeGaBiBo also organizes events in public places to reach society at large. One time, in a mall, we organised a very interesting event, a debate pro and against homosexuality. The team that acted against homosexuality expressed the ideas of the traditional Botswana community. When the panel was open to the public, most people said that, after listening to the points brought forward by the opposing side, they realised how wrong their views are. This gives me hope for the future!