HOW GABORONE PRIDE MAKES CASE FOR WHY LGBTQI TOURIST AND GROUPS SHOULD SUPPORT BOTSWANA
Botswana is a country I love. I visited often as a young child. My late mom is now buried just across the border in Motswedi, (formally other names, then Union of South Africa, then Bophuthatswana, and now South Africa) with great esteem and honor in the burial ground of Chiefs, the Royal Tswana family of Mangope. The Tswana people have a long history of being divided and being robbed of land, courtesy the Colonialists, who left in their wake their Penal Codes that criminalized LGBTQI people. Now Botswana can be seen as a leader in LGBTQI rights. Perhaps influenced by their neighbors in South Africa to assert equality for all, Botswana’s LGBTI community advanced with courage and determination.
As can be seen from the additional articles below, the LGBTI leadership in Botswana persevered for years until finally one year ago to the date, the President Mokgweetsi Masisi, declared his groundbreaking support for LGBTI rights. This signaled time to decriminalize and the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex community successfully accomplished the repeal of those draconian Penal Codes. While small Prides had taken place previously, this past week, Botswana saw its first ever post criminalization Pride and it was a huge success.
Here is my interview with the amazing Olivia Maswikiti, Chairperson of the Botswana Gaborone Pride Committee:
Melanie: When did you first start organizing Pride?
Olivia: The idea to organize pride came in 2018 May. We registered the organization and started the planning process.
Melanie: Have you ever held a Pride before decriminalization?
Olivia: There has been small prides over the years, which were organized by an organization called Rainbow identity with focus on Trans and Intersex people. This is the first ever all LGBTIQ+ pride to be held in Gaborone Botswana.
Melanie: Did you have to get permits to hold Pride?
Olivia: Yes we had to get all Permits to host the Pride which included, Police escort, Sound stage and lighting permits, venue etc.
Melanie: What did the event include?
Olivia: The event included a parade in the morning, food, beverages and merchandize stalls. We also had a stage set up and a line up of 15 performing artists and Djs.
Melanie: How did you think it ended – was it a success?
Olivia: Yes, the event was a success, it is the biggest event ever held for LGBTIQ+ people in Botswana. The turnout was the first of its size within this community (LGBTIQ+).
Melanie: Did you get Gaborone or Botswana media coverage?
Olivia: Yes we did, Yarona FM(radio station), Duma FM(radio station), Gabz FM(radio station), Gazzette newspaper and Reel media documentary TV are some of the media that helped to cover the event.
Melanie: Why do you think Pride is important in Botswana?
Olivia: The event strives to raise awareness on issues of sexual diversity and bridge a gap to a more understanding and tolerant nation through educating the society. Through this celebration of the individual we acknowledge achievements and milestone in the human rights journey. The purpose of the Pride event is to call for acceptance and care amongst gender and sexual minorities in Botswana’s diverse society as well as to provide a platform to continue the fight for equality and to challenge prejudice.
Melanie: Do you feel Botswana is safe for LGBTI people?
Olivia: The President of the country Dr. Mokgweetsi Masisi has made a declaration to support and protect all persons regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. Botwana has also been rated as the safest country in Africa. Botswana was also just recently crowned best safari tourism destination by Safari bookings which means our economy is open and accommodating.
Melanie: Will you hold a pride next year?
Olivia: Yes Gaborone Pride will be held every year, next year Pride will be on the 26 of September 2020, which will be our official Pride month.
Melanie Did you have sponsorship or partnerships?
Olivia: 80% of the Pride expenses were paid for from our pocket, however we had a little assistance from 3 companies including Johannesburg Pride, Stallion Securities and Benini.
Melanie: Is pride in Botswana registered as an organization?
Olivia: Yes it was registered in May of 2018 as an organization with a mandate to host Pride annually and events for LGBTIQ+ persons.
Melanie: Would you like to visit us in San Francisco for Pride in June?
Olivia: Yes it would be an honor, also it would be a great opportunity to benchmark and see how other Prides outside of Africa are conducted.
Melanie Nathan: As this historic Pride reflects the worthiness of Botswana as a country, I think it is important for LGBTQI individuals, communities and allies to take note that Botswana has one of the highest Safari tourism ratings in Africa. It is noted as one of the safest African countries. It is also a safe place for gays, lesbian, trans and intersex people in that in has ditched the Colonial era criminalizing Penal Codes. Often Westerners think that penalizing countries through sanctions and withdrawing aid is the best form of protest against laws that criminalize our sexuality. I disagree – that tends to have a backlash effect. In my opinion the best way to for the West to react and bring the message home, is to provide overt, public and added support to countries such as Botswana for their progress through decriminalization and toward full equality and inclusion.
ACTION: HENCE SUPPORT BOTSWANA and make your support public. Gay travel groups should ensure they only travel to equality based or decriminalized countries and should never return to Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia or Kenya as destinations, switching to Botswana – NOT in boycott of those criminalizing countries, but rather in support of the decriminalizing countries such as Botswana, where it is obviously much safer for gays. It is hard to imagine that supporting Tanzania, Kenya, Zambia and Uganda over Botswana, so highly rated for Safaris, is prudent at this point.
While neighboring South Africa should be supported as well for its LGBTQI equal constitution, it is a country fraught with xenophobia and has not served as a safe destination for asylum seekers or refugees from neighboring criminalizing countries. It is also generally a very unsafe country due to high incidence of murder, rape and criminality in general. Also the incidence of so called “corrective rape” against lesbians in South African Townships is still reflective of entrenched homophobia. Visiting South Africa by LGBTQI tourism is important though, in that it is gay friendly in large cities and the international visibility and show of tourist support can serve to mitigate homophobia.
SPECIAL THANKS TO – PRIDE OF AFRICA BANNER: Thank you to Johannesburg Pride under leadership of Kaye Ally for your friendly role in providing financial support.!
THE PEOPLE OF BOTSWANA: Nationality: Noun and adjective–Motswana (sing.), Batswana (pl.). Ethnic groups: Tswana 79%; Kalanga 11%; Kgalagadi, Herero, Bayeyi, Himbukush, Basarwa (“Bushmen”), Khoi (“Hottentots”), whites 10%.
More Articles by Melanie Nathan on Botswana, reflecting the trajectory toward this PRIDE.
Botswana became the latest country to decriminalize LGBTI individuals Tuesday when the High Court rejected as unconstitutional sections of the penal code that punish same-sex relations with up to seven years in prison. Jubilant activists in the packed courtroom cheered the unanimous decision in the southern African nation. It came less than a month after Kenya’s … More Jubilation as Botswana High Court Rules to Decriminalize LGBTI
The recently appointed President of Botswana has been applauded for publicly speaking out in support of LGBTI people. Now he should take the step to promote repeal of Botswana’s criminalizing laws In April Botswana’s new President, Mokgweetsi Masisi, took office, heralding hope for the furthering of human and civil rights in the country. Launching the country’s … More Botswana’s New President Groundbreaking Support for LGBTI Rights
While the threat of draconian penal codes still looms for LGBTI people in Botswana By Melanie Nathan, November 15, 2014. The Gaborone High Court ruled that the Botswana government is compelled to register the LGBTI group, group LEGABIBO, (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana). This order was sought after registration of the organization was refused … More Botswana Gay Group Victorious
Despite criminalization homosexual acts Botswana educates through LGBTI film festival – Posted on Melanie Nathan 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, … More Despite criminalization homosexual acts Botswana educates through LGBTI film festival