The Pink Debate (reactions to Botswana's decriminalization case overheard on a local mini-bus)

Published: March 23, 2011

Recent media reports on same-sex relations have brought a sharp focus on the intricacies of the highly contentious subject of lesbians, homosexuals, bi-sexuals and persons of one sex who identify primarily as members of the other, commonly referred to as transgendered. I listened in to the ensuing national discourse when I recently stepped into a fierce debate on homosexuality as I boarded a mini-bus taxi home  from work the Friday the local tabloid, The Voice broke the news of the, ‘first lesbian couple to publicly declare their love’ for each other.

Homosexuality is a topic of a wide, complex and multi-dimensional debate and the attitudes of my fellow passengers towards same-sex relationships reflected the broader cultural, religious, legal and moral norms that regulate sexuality in Botswana. Emotions in the taxi ranged from revulsion by a ‘decadent Western innovation’ forced upon Africans by white men, through seeing the practice as a sin before God, to impassioned calls for recognition of the rights of sexual minorities and casual it-doesn’t-bother-me acceptance of the practice.

I proceeded to the window seat, two rows behind the driver. A middle aged passenger in faded blue overalls occupied the front passenger seat. He was straining his neck to face the other passengers. Frothing at the mouth and the veins running down his neck about to burst under enormous strain he yelled, “It’s these perverts who’ve brought us the dreaded HIV / AIDS scourge.” “They are the purveyors of all these dreaded modern sexually transmitted diseases,” he screamed.

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