Despite criminalization homosexual acts Botswana educates through LGBTI film festival

By Melanie Nathan, February, 25, 2013.Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 7.08.50 PM
Last week the small Southern African country of Botswana saw a highly unusual and courageous event.  In a country that criminalizes homosexual acts, a film festival was held at the University of Botswana to educate the community on same-gender relationships.

According to a report in the local Monitor publication, the week long festival was “proved to have touched many hearts and left many with a different view about Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Intersex (LGBTI).”

The films were organized by ‘Batho BaLorato’ film festival and were mainly targeted to help Batswana discuss and learn more about issues surrounding human sexuality in what was considered an open forum.

One of the event organizers in an interview with The Monitor said the films really had a big impact on viewers. “One of the attendees said we should take the films all over the country as they could teach a lot of people who are still lacking  information about LGBTI and most of these comments we got from heterosexual people, while the LGBTI people were happy to see stories about people like them that they can relate to,” he said.

Screen Shot 2013-02-25 at 7.09.10 PMThe article noted:

“Each day a film addressed a certain issue concerning LGBTI people, this was briefly followed by a guest speaker who shared with the audience their thoughts about the film and how they relate to their own experiences, guests included church leaders, theologians, an ex-homophobic heterosexual man, a Christian transgender woman, human rights advocates and social workers. A discussion was then open to audience members where many had the opportunity to voice their opinions without being judged.

The films were well attended and those that showed to be popular and a hit with the audience were ‘Difficult Love’ which addressed a highly personal take on the challenges facing black lesbians in South Africa (SA) today and ‘Voices of Witness Africa’ which is a documentary film in which LGBTI Africans talk frankly about their lives and their relationships with God and the church.

Other films that were shown were ‘A Woman Trapped In A Man’s Body’, ‘Bits Of This, Bits Of That’ but the film festival was closed by an emotional film titled ‘Pariah’ that showed on the last day. The film was about a lesbian coming out and the rejection she encounters from her parents and society.”

Botswana’s penal code, of British Colonial import, outlaws homosexual sex acts and although these acts remain illegal, their prosecution is rare.  It would seem that Botswana may becoming more tolerant.  The penal code is an import from British Colonial days.  This is one African country where I believe with the right education and advocacy such laws could be overturned.

Botswana is one of the most magnificent countries in Africa to travel on Safari. It is my hope that this form of education through film will indeed travel through Botswana to educate more people about the myths of homosexuality and LGBTI relationships, and in such event I would be the first to encourage more international pink dollars to support its progress.

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According to the Botswana Penal Code:[1]

Section 164. Unnatural offences. Any person who-

(a) has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature; [or]

(c) 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. Attempts to commit unnatural offences. 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. Indecent practices between persons. 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.

Section 33. General punishment for offences. When in this Code no punishment is specially provided for any offence, it shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or with a fine, or with both.

Although same-gender sexual acts remain illegal, their prosecution is rare according to a 2004 publication


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