‘Protect queer persons from violence, harassment, exclusion’ -LEGABIBO
‘Bring protective anti-hate laws that protect sexual and gender minorities’
MATLHOGONOLO SAM SAM*
November is the International Transgender Awareness Month.
Throughout the month of November, the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) will join the global community to carry out awareness, educational and social initiatives that speak to the promotion and protection of transgender and gender minority groups in Botswana.
The annual commemoration is a crucial time to uplift the voices of the transgender and gender non-conforming community in Botswana through awareness, education and a call for proactive action on the protection, promotion and realization of the human rights of transgender and gender diverse persons.
Transgender and gender diverse persons are people who do not identify with the body that they were born in, and/ or do not conform to either masculinity or femininity. They form part of the rich and diverse spectrum of gender identity, gender expression and sexuality.
In a 2017 national study, it was revealed that transgender and gender non-conforming people in Botswana often experience discrimination and violence because of their gender identity and expression. It shows that transgender and gender non-conforming people are at higher risk of experiencing violence and mental ill-health, compared to the general population, and that 56% had experienced verbal harassment because of their gender identity. 48% had experienced physical violence and more than 38% had experienced sexual violence.
In 2010, LEGABIBO developed the Gender Legal Recognition Policy, that aims to guide the Government of Botswana on a clear process that will ensure that transgender and gender diverse persona have the Rights to Identity, Expression, Protection and Self-Determination. Currently in Botswana, transgender and gender diverse persons are not allowed to change their gender marker on their national documents without a court order. The denial and refusal of these rights impedes a transgender and gender diverse person’s ability to live in dignity, equality and security PROTECT. PROMOTE. DEFEND.
In 2017, the Botswana High Court ordered the Government to change the gender marker on the identification document of a transgender individual, and the courts emphasized that “…the State has a duty to uphold the fundamental human rights of every person and to promote tolerance, acceptance and diversity within our constitutional democracy. This includes taking all necessary legislative, administrative and other measures to ensure that procedures exist whereby all State-issued identity documents which indicate a person’s gender/sex reflect the person’s self-defined gender identity.” The Ministry of Health and Wellness in 2017 recognized the need for full legal gender recognition and noted that this would be beneficial for transgender and gender diverse persons.
The LGBTIQ community calls upon the government of Botswana to work with civil society organisation and the transgender and gender diverse community in the development of legislative and administrative measures that ensure the procedures for legal gender recognition ordered by the court. We also call for the promotion and protection transgender and gender diverse persons from daily experiences of violence, harassment, mockery, exclusion and marginalization. There needs to be protective anti-hate laws that protect sexual and gender minorities. We further urge the society to be inclusive and speak and act out against injustices and inhumane treatment of all human beings.
*Media, Advocacy and Communications officer @ LEGABIBO