Wednesday, August 5, 2020

We need to fastrack gender equality in our politics

Now that the dust surrounding the general elections is beginning to settle, it is time we look at the deeper dynamics that are non-partisan but which should nonetheless be part of important exercises such as General Elections.

As ever before, the General Elections have been dominated by men.

Of all the parties contesting the elections, none was able to field a woman for a President.

To our knowledge none even had a woman for a vice president.

We are aware that Botswana National Front has a woman as its Vice President, but then she was not on the ballot paper.

Rather the party contested under the ambit of the Umbrella for Democratic Change whose leader and deputy leader are both men.

When the elections were done, it was our hope that the four Specially Elected Members of Parliament would be dominated by women.

As it turned out only one woman made it to the list. We congratulate her.

We however wish that other women other than those that had been rejected by the people would have been nominated to the list of Specially Elected MPs.

That however is a distraction.

The fact of the matter is that even under a soft arrangement such as Specially Elected, the party in power showed a deep-rooted lack of faith in women.

That in our view is grossly unfortunate.

We agree that gender equality is something that continues to lag behind on many sectors of our socio-economic facet.

But politics should be exemplary in showing the way forward that it can indeed be done.

It is a real pity that under Ian Khama all the gains that we had made as a country during Festus Mogae’s era to empower women by ushering them into positions of power and authority including through special dispensations have been significantly reduced.

There are fewer women in cabinet today than there was ten years ago.

The same applies to the number of women in leadership positions in the public service.

Almost hand in hand with gender, yet another issue that needs to be debated at a national level is that of gay rights.

We need to open this issue for debate with a sober and non-emotive national discourse.

If Batswana still want their various laws to criminalise same sex relations so be it.

But then the options and reality as it obtains across the globe must be put across including and especially by those directly affected without rushing to stigmatize, much less ostracise them.
The number of gays in Botswana is growing.

Some of them are openly so.

Are the current laws relevant?

These are the issues that need to be discussed at a national level.

Intolerance and fundamentalism under the guise of culture or religion will not take us far.
By allowing these laws to stay in our books we need as a nation to accept the role we are playing in promoting homophobia which humanity elsewhere is seized with bringing to an end.

We should also wake up to the reality that by keeping these laws in our statues we are proactively driving underground many of the gay men and women who are in positions of power in this country.
Sexuality, we contend is a private matter, but when a prominent leader announces that they are, it goes a long way in demystifying same sex relations.

At the height of HIV/AIDS it took announcement by prominent people to declare that status to help fight the stigma.


Read this week's paper

Sunday Standard August 2 – 8

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