Modise Maphanyane, a staunch Catholic and ex MISA director, has said that he supports the decriminalization of homosexuality.
Maphanyane says that decriminalizing homosexual acts will foster respect for human rights as well as assist in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
Maphanyane has thrown his weight behind Cane Youngman, a gay activist who wants Section 164 of the penal code to be scrapped.
Youngman is challenging the constitutionality of Section 164 and alleges that it discriminates against homosexuals.
In an affidavit deposed before the Lobatse High Court, Maphanyane states that homosexuality in Botswana has been in existence from time immemorial.
“Homosexuality is not at all an import of the western ideas and cultures as some people have come to believe. That homosexuality is indeed a natural phenomenon and should not be discriminated against for homosexuals do not have control over their sexuality,” he said.
Maphanyane states that homosexuality has been ‘submerged’ and turned into a disgrace with homosexuals being expected to live according to societal standards.
He says that he has interacted with people who consider themselves as homosexuals or lesbians, ‘some out of choice but mostly are born with a predisposition towards liking members of the same sex’.
According to Maphanyane, homosexuality is also the result of the biological person which does not correspond with the gender of that individual as ascribed by society. He says that Setswana terminology shows that there are people who are born with certain inclinations that society considers unpleasant
“I honestly believe that homosexuality has come to be demonized and criminalized because the Botswana society sometimes does not accept certain things, prefer the domination of certain cultural beliefs over others as well as their superiority over certain inclinations. However, it should be acknowledged that we are all products of the society and as such we should fight all the societal inclinations to certain cultural beliefs so as to achieve equality,” says Maphanyane.
He states that in its fight against HIV/AIDS, Botswana has chosen to ignore gays and lesbians. He adds that government’s continued refusal to recognize the existence of gays, lesbians and bisexuals has had an adverse effect on the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“Men having sex with men and gay men in particular, underground renders it difficult to identify such groups and thus target HIV/AIDS interventions. The situation is exacerbated by the tendencies created within the community to deny homosexual behavior itself. These tendencies arise as a result of the strong social stigma attached to same-sex sexual preferences,” he contends.
Maphanyane’s contentions are supported by the Botswana Network on Law Ethics and HIV/AIDS‘ programmes Officer, Felistus Motimedi.
Motimedi has deposed a supporting affidavit in which she states that she uncovered through a study that HIV/AIDS is highly prevalent in men who have sex with men.
According to the study a number of men have not disclosed their sexual orientation because of fear of stigmatization while half of those interviewed and tested have not received information on preventing HIV infection and sexual transmitted infections between men who have sex with men.