Thursday, August 6, 2020

Botswana urged to protect the vulnerable against discrimination

The Government of Botswana has been asked by the United Nations agency responsible for overseeing International Labour Standards (ILO), to adopt a national policy aimed at promoting equality of opportunity and treatment, for men and women.

Such a policy, which should include measures intended to eliminate discrimination against indigenous peoples, would be implemented in line with Article 2 of the ILO Convention No. 111 once adopted.

The existing laws in Botswana, according to the ILO Committee of Experts in their recently released report on the country (2010), have been found inadequate.

In that regard, reference was made to previous comments made by the ILO regarding section 15(4) (e) of the Constitution of Botswana.

The quoted section apparently makes provision for differential treatment of people by law where it was considered “reasonably justifiable in a democratic society”, thus, Government was accordingly implored to indicate how that provision has been and was currently being applied in practice.

“Whereby persons of any such description as is mentioned in subsection (3) of this section may be subjected to any disability or restriction or may be accorded any privilege or advantage which, having regard to its nature and to special circumstances pertaining to those persons or to persons of any description, is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society,” read the contested clause.
It seemed pertinent to remind Botswana that, “Each Member(country) for which this Convention is in force undertakes to declare and pursue a national policy designed to promote, by methods appropriate to national conditions and practice, equality of opportunity and treatment.”

The ILO defined discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion or preference made on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin, which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation”.
In the same vein, such other distinction, exclusion or preference which has the effect of nullifying or impairing equality of opportunity or treatment in employment or occupation as may be determined by the Member country concerned.

However, acknowledgement was made of the fact that any conclusion arrived at by the country in formulating its laws must contradict the ILO standards, and should involve consultation with representatives of employers’ and workers’ organizations.

Government was further called upon to recognize the fact that article 2 of the ILO convention also covers indigenous populations, and that she is accordingly requested to provide information on the measures taken to protect them.

Such provision would include measures to promote and facilitate the ability of indigenous peoples to pursue their traditional occupations.

Additionally, the ILO committee was worried by the fact that the Employment Act only prohibited discrimination as far as it relates to termination of contracts, and it expressed hope that more comprehensive provisions will be included in the new law that Government reported to it that is still under discussion.

In the final analysis Government was urged to take appropriate steps so that protection from discrimination based on social origin was also assured, and to provide information on any cases regarding discrimination in employment and occupation decided by the courts.

The most striking statistic however, has been the consistent reluctance and sometimes total indifference with which government dealt with reports from the ILO demanding its concentrated response.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard August 2 – 8

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 2 - 8, 2020.