By Ruth Kedikilwe
Video footage circulating on social media depicting the public battery of a transgender woman in Gaborone has raised a red flag that Botswana may be more homophobic that previously thought.
The woman was violently attacked by men, women and security personnel in Gaborone while bystanders stood by yelling obscenities at her and filming the incident leaving her hurt, exposed and humiliated under the pretext that they were ‘defending public morality and instilling good behavior.’
Despite strides that Batswana appear to have made over the years towards respecting sexual diversity, the video footage which is believed to be one of numerous attacks on gays and lesbians has revealed that Botswana is still homophobic.
Lesbian Gay Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) issued a statement this week that this kind of behavior emanates from the wrong perception that violating a person who does not conform to heteronormativity is equivalent to defending social norms and upholding the cultural and religious beliefs of Botswana.
This kind of violence also known as trans- bashing is a universal problem and is done by homophobic and transphobic people. The most infamous trans-bashing occurred 25 years ago (1993) when two boys gang raped and murdered their friend after realizing that he had been assigned female at birth an incident that inspired the Academy award winning blockbuster, Boys Don’t Cry.
Trans bashing is similar to gay bashing, however the latter the victim is attacked on the basis of sexual orientation not the perceived or actual gender identity. It goes beyond physical altercations and also encompasses hate speech directed towards transgender people and derogatory depictions on media platforms that tend to perpetuate negative stereotypes.
In their statement LEGABIBO further stated that Constitution of Botswana has declared that everyone deserves the right to be protected against inhumane treatment and that includes transgender persons pointing out that; that humiliating a human being whether in public or private is not good behavior, it’s not Botho, it’s not Godly, it’s not Cultural and it’s definitely Illegal.
A gay gentleman in his late twenties who chose to speak on condition of anonymity for fear of victimization stated that as a during his school going years he went through the worst kind of verbal abuse from his peers, teachers and the community at large. He further said that as time went by and Batswana became more open minded regarding sexual orientation it got slightly better however the stigma still exists. “My friends and have been harassed in public but being older and wiser I have learnt to defend myself from most homophobic tendencies,” he says. According to him, the worst kind of harassment is not being able to report these incidents because the very people who are supposed to protect us mock them further.
Just last year a Motswana trans woman took government to court and won her case to change the gender marker from male to female on her identity documents. She recently got married to the love of her life, a small victory for the LGBTQ community but there is still a lot to be done to shift perspectives and ultimately attain a paradigm shift regarding the different sexual preferences and identities.