Botswana was once again raked over hot coals for its human rights record during the commemoration of the anniversary of the adoption of the declaration of human rights by the United Nations General Assembly on 10th Friday December, 2009 this past week. Botswana could not escape scrutiny of its own showing in relation to the manner of dealing with several human rights related issues.
Botswana Network of Ethics and Law on HIV and AIDS (BONELA) was the first to join the international community in recognizing and celebrating this day.
Uyapo Ndadi, Acting Director, lamented that although Botswana continues to enjoy international accolades for having the best HIV and AIDS strategies and interventions, a lot more still needs to be done.
Ndadi pointed out that Government still has preferential treatment for citizens and non-citizens.
“Moreover, even inmates, a majority of whom are citizens, continue to be denied treatment on the basis that the authorities do not recognize same sex relationships, and refugees cannot get free access to treatment,” said the Human rights attorney.
He said in so doing, Government is subjecting those affected a treatment that is not only degrading but is also inhuman and amounts to torture. In this context, BONELA cited his President Ian Khama’s remarks at the recent World AIDS day in Kasane, when he highlighted the need to get rid of discriminatory laws, policies and practices.
“The law that provides for this discriminatory treatment of non-citizens is one such piece that qualifies removal as per the President’s statement, and urgently so,” posited Ndadi.
On another plane, it has been described as regrettable that Botswana is one of the few countries in the region that have no law protecting job applicants and employees who live with HIV in the workplace. As a result, workers suffer the indignity of losing jobs because of their HIV status.
Government is also counted as a perpetrator for infringing on non ÔÇô citizen’s right to privacy by testing expatriate job applicants.
The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon, has called on all countries to remove punitive laws, policies and practices that hamper the HIV/AIDS response.
He said in his speech, on the occasion of the Human Rights Day, “In many countries, legal frameworks institutionalize discrimination against groups most at risk.” The UN Chief added that, this is despite the fact that discrimination against sex workers, drug users and men who have sex with men only fuels the epidemic and prevents cost-effective interventions.”
It is generally expected that Government will pay heed to Moon’s message.
That is especially so given the recent outcry about extra-judicial killings by members of the security services, which have largely been attributed to the absence of an independent human rights oversight machinery to track and ensure accountability for violations taking place in our country.
“Some of these would include, killings by state actors under circumstances not sanctioned by the constitution, wanton and unlawful arrests, unchallengeable deportations, abuse of young people and women in the name of culture and tradition, as well as severe and unconstitutional beatings,” concluded BONELA’s Acting Director.
This amounted to a call, according to Ndadi, on the government of Botswana to guarantee and protect socio-economic and cultural rights such as the right to education and the right to health. We need to shine the light of Human rights in all that we do.