The Botswana Network on Ethics Law and HIV/AIDS (Bonela) commemorated International Human Rights Day with a colourful event and a call for an end to discrimination against LGBTI.
The celebration in Gaborone began with a march from the national stadium to Main Mall where Phenyo Butale, the national director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) was the guest speaker.
From a distance, with all the rainbow flags waving in the air, one would have thought the march was a Gay Pride also most people who marched appeared to be from the LGBT community.
The aim of the event was to raise awareness on issues of stigma and discrimination for people living with HIV, how stigma fuel HIV and collective responsibility to end same.
The director of Bonela Uyapo Ndadi said “People should not fear to stand and defend human rights. Every human being is entitled to human rights based on the fact that they are human irrespective of their sexual orientation or gender, race or colour.”
He said many Batswana are afraid of coming out to stand their ground because “We as Botswana never had to fight for independence like South Africa and that is also why many do not know it is human rights day.”
The guest speaker Phenyo Butale said “Human rights defenders come from all walks of life. MISA and Bonela come along way and we believe that media has become a major player in disseminating information and has given the voiceless a voice.”
Saying he was aware of how the media could destroy people`s lives he added that MISA and Bonela were working on strategies to combat such negative effects on people’s lives by the media.
The second speaker was Junior Molefe, a representative from Lesbians Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo) who spoke about the discrimination and stigma faced by LGBTI people in Botswana.
Molefe said “We have seen our respective Members of Parliament (MPs) reinforcing homophobia using their power, religion and culture. This kind of behaviour by our MPs has certainly lead LGBTI to fear of being exposed to negative and discriminatory treatment by political and religious leaders. Just few days ago we read in newspapers that the government`s position on homosexuality will not change. I tell you hostility to homosexuals has been expressed numerous times by our government officials. Now we wonder if we are not part of this government.”
Molefe said that he hoped his presentation would make people understand the experiences of LGBTI people and to see how important it is to recognize, respect and accept them in the society,
Molefe said, “Think about your own behaviour towards LGBTI people and set an example to those around you, who may not have good attitude.”
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