Monday, October 18, 2021

Criminalization of gay sex is a public danger – Legabibo

The Government will engage a homosexuality expert in an attempt to parry a flurry of legal actions against the state by gays and lesbians in the country.

According to papers before court, the government is expected to pick a huge legal bill in a case in which Lesbian, gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) wants the court to rule on whether  sections 164 (a) and (c) 165 and 167 of the constitution which criminalise consensual same sex sexual conduct perpetrates stigma, intolerance, homophobia and violence against  LGBT .

State attorney Grenorrah Begane states in papers before Justice Michael Leburu that Legabibo in its affidavit and supporting documentation raises broad constitutional issues and very complex foreign research findings which require the engagement of an independent expert in matters of homosexuality to assist.

In her affidavit, Legabibo Chief Executive Officer Anna Mmolai-Chalrmers wants the court to make a pronouncement on whether the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct disproportionately impacts on the daily lives of LGBT persons, increasing their vulnerability-more than their heterosexual counterparts ÔÇôin violation of their constitutional rights.  

According to Mmolai-Chalmers, through LEGABIBO’s community outreach and engagement programmes, we have found that the LGBT community-men who have sex with men, in particular-are especially vulnerable to stigma in all spheres of their daily lives.

Citing the expert affidavit expert of Alexandra Muller, Mmolai-Chalmers said sections164 (a) and (c) 165 and 167 of the constitution is a form of stigma and contributes to the high level of violence, disparities in mental health status and to the barriers to access to health care experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people living in Botswana, including men who have sex with men. 

She said although stigma can be attributed to various factors including societal attitudes toward homosexuality, it cannot be doubted that criminalizing consensual same-sex conduct is a form of a stigma which is degrading and invasive.

In fact, several studies have found that even when not enforced, the criminalization of consensual same-sex sexual conduct is a crucial step to ameliorate the stigma and discrimination experienced by Men who have sex with other men and LGBT more broadly.

She cited the Botswana government officials in the National Commitment and Polices Instrument acknowledged that criminalization enables stigma that Botswana’s laws and polices create barriers to HIV services provision for LGBT.

Muller who is an associate Professor at University of Cape Town states in a supporting affidavit that sections 164 (a) and (c) 165 and 167 of the constitution contribute to the disparities in mental health status, to high levels of violence and to the barriers to access to healthcare experienced by LGTB.  

Muller also found that the levels of mental problems, suicidal behaviours and substance use among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people living in Botswana, including men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women are higher than reported for the general Batswana population.

Muller LGBT living in Botswana experience sexual orientation and gender identity-related discrimination when accessing healthcare services.

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