Africa is a generally a dangerous place for LGBTI+ persons. The continent’s long-standing relationship with laws, culture and religion that criminalize and endanger the lives of LGBTI people make it difficult for LGBTI people across the continent to express themselves without fear. In a 2018 report by Amnesty International, only 22 countries out of 54 countries on the continent legalize same-sex relationship. In some parts it is illegal and punishable by a jail term and in others, it is punishable by a death penalty.
But, Mokgweetsi Masisi is breaking through all of that.
57-year-old Mokgweetsi Masisi is the 5th and current President of the Republic of Botswana. He was sworn in as President of the Republic Botswana on the 1st of April 2018 after serving as Vice President between 2014 – 2018. He was appointed President after former President, Ian Khama, retired from the presidency.
“Masisi assumed the country’s leadership just over 18 months before the country’s national elections scheduled for October 2019,” a profile on Xinhua news says.
According to a report by Mamba Online, Mokgweetsi Masisi, in an event to launch the country’s 2018 commemorations of the 16 days of activism against violence on women and children, in the capital Gaborone, had made his stance on LGBTI rights known.
“There are also many people of same-sex relationships in this country, who have been violated and have also suffered in silence for fear of being discriminated. Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected” He had announced to the crowd.
The Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana welcomed the president at the event. The group urged the president to work to decriminalise consensual same-sex relationships in Botswana.
Although same-sex sexual activity is still illegal in Botswana, the country has made progress with some of its LGBTI laws. The 2010 Employment act prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. In 2017, Botswana High court ruled that transgender people have rights to gender confirmation surgery and identification in their new sex.
Mokgweetsi Masisi’s announcement sounds like progress for Botswana. We can only look forward to the outcome of the March 2019 court case when the Botswana High court announced that it will finally hear a case on the decriminalisation of homosexuality.