Madame Chair, Commissioners,
AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) makes this statement in support of an autonomous group of Lesbian, Bisexual and Queer Women in Botswana and the Coalition of African Lesbians (CAL).
Recalling that Article 2 of the African Charter prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of distinctions of any kind, including race, ethnic group, colour, sex, language, religion, political or any other opinion, national and social origin, fortune, birth or any status;
We commend the government of Botswana for its commitment to the protection of the fundamental human rights of all persons without discrimination. We commend, in particular, the commitment to: implement court orders pertaining to the protection of the human rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender persons; and to address issues of discrimination of marginalized groups, including LGBT persons, in consultation with CSOs. We highlight two specific instances: namely, the registration of an organisation that advocates for the human rights of LGBT persons and two cases relating to changing of gender markers. These progressive judgements have demonstrated that the state is accountable to its obligations to national and international human rights principles.
There is, however, a need to acknowledge that LGBT persons are among the groups that do not enjoy equal human rights in Botswana. The court is the only body that has demonstrated commitment to recognizing and protecting the rights of LGBT persons. We are concerned by the absence of concrete national strategies and plans of action in relation to Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Expression, and Sex Characteristics (SOGIESC).
We are encouraged that Botswana has made a commitment to not further restrict access to safe and legal abortion. However, we remain concerned by the continued challenges in access to safe, legal abortion and post-abortion care for women seeking these services. These persistent challenges continue to undermine Botswana’s commitment to uphold the right to health for all and the commitment to ensure freedom from violence for all.
We are also encouraged by Botswana’s commitment to research on HIV and on access to clinical services to key populations, and urge the government of Botswana to ensure inclusion of sex workers in its plans and strategies on access to comprehensive health services for all.
In keeping with its commitments under the African Charter, we call on the government of Botswana to:
- Accept the recommendation to adopt legislation to protect victims of violence and other human rights violations in line with resolution 275 of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, thereby protecting and promoting bodily autonomy of LGBT persons, and protecting queer women from violence.
- Ratify and domesticate all regional and international conventions, particularly The Protocol to the African Charter on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), thereby guaranteeing the rights of all women, including queer women, to live free from violence and discrimination.
- Put in place verifiable and measurable policies and laws that not only eliminate prejudices that underpin human right violations; but that also expressly protect LGBT persons from such violations.