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Demonstrations Erupt in Gaborone Against Proposed Legalization of Same-Sex Relations in Botswana
Religious groups protest in Botswana's capital, opposing bill for LGBTQ rights. Demonstrators march against same-sex relations, citing religious beliefs and family values. Wider pushback on LGBTQ rights observed in southern Africa.
Religious groups took to the streets of Botswana's capital, Gaborone, to protest against the potential legalization of same-sex relations in the country. The demonstrations, held in response to a bill aimed at complying with a 2019 court ruling in favor of LGBTQ rights, saw passionate opposition from protesters.
Botswana's High Court ruled in 2019 in favor of campaigners seeking the removal of jail sentences for same-sex relationships, deeming such punishments as unconstitutional. Despite the government's attempt to overturn the ruling, they lost the appeal in 2021.
The protesters, mostly representing Christian faiths, voiced their objections to the bill, expressing strong beliefs against same-sex relations. One demonstrator stated, "We are saying no to this abomination, no. It’s a sin. Botswana is a Christian country." Others pointed out the importance of the traditional family structure, arguing that it strengthens the nation morally and socially.
Pulafela Siele, the chair of the Evangelical Fellowship of Botswana (EFB), an umbrella organization of Pentecostal and Evangelical churches, demanded the bill's cessation, ‘fearing’ the potential legalization of homosexuality in the country. Siele clarified that their opposition was not rooted in hatred but rather in a belief that such laws would not be beneficial to the nation.
Wynter Mmolotsi, a member of parliament, highlighted the influence of religious beliefs on the debate surrounding the proposed legislation. "Christians clearly do not agree with this," Mmolotsi said, acknowledging that their stance would influence how the law is discussed in the parliamentary session.
The demonstration in Botswana adds to a broader trend of pushback against LGBTQ rights in southern Africa. Recently, thousands of people marched in Malawi ahead of a constitutional court case challenging the country's ban on same-sex relationships. Similarly, lawmakers in Namibia have supported legislation to ban same-sex marriage and penalize its proponents, following a Supreme Court ruling permitting the recognition of some overseas unions.
Botswana's LGBTQ rights group, LEGABIBO, expressed concerns about the appropriation of religion as a weapon to manipulate the church's message of love and restoration. The bill, which aims to remove related provisions from the penal code, is set to be discussed in the coming weeks in parliament.
As debates continue, advocates for LGBTQ rights in Botswana and across Africa remain vigilant in their efforts to promote inclusivity and equality in the face of resistance and challenges.
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