Decriminalisation of LGBTQI people is a victory for human dignity.
The 11 June 2019 decision of the Botswana High Court, to strike down colonial laws which discriminated against LGBTIQ persons was greeted with joy by those seeking to promote human dignity.
Alice Mogwe – Anglican lay woman, Human Rights defender, and founder and Director of DITSHWANELO – the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, welcomed the ruling with joy.
‘We believe in human dignity: that all are made in the image of God’ she said. ‘This is a step on the road to dignity for LGBTIQ persons in Botswana, a great step, but still a step. It offers the hope of more to come. LGBTIQ people need to have dignity in all our communities, in their families and among all of our people. This can make it possible.’
Alice has been journeying with LGBTIQ people on their road to freedom for over 20 years. In 1998 DITSHWANELO created a project focused on the rights of LGB persons. This led to the establishment of a fledgling group called LeGaBiBo – Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo). It was seeded and nested by DITSHWANELO.
Many human rights groups advocate for the voiceless and speak for the oppressed. Alice has long championed human dignity over human rights and her aim is to enable people to speak for themselves, not to be spoken for.
DITSHWANELO has been hosting the Pilot Mathambo Centre for Men’s Health(PMCMH) which supports men who have sex with men (MSM) and currently Friends of Diversity (FOD). The PMCMH grew out of LeGaBiBo and FOD grew out of the PMCMH. Seeding, nesting, nurturing civil society organisations are typical characteristics of Alice’s vision.
Young LGBTIQ leadership has been nurtured through DITSHWANELO, people like Oabona Sepora who is the executive director of Friends of Diversity Botswana. Alice is mentoring FOD leadership including finding joint projects to be undertaken by FOD and DITSHWANELO. Alice is also a board member of The Other Foundation – a foundation committed to the strengthening of LGBTIQ communities, as well as their allies, in Southern Africa.
The legal victory has been long in the making, but the work is still at its infancy. The journey ahead is to move from tolerance to acceptance and from there to mutual celebration.
Alice Mogwe has taken a significant lead. She is not clergy, even though she has contemplated ordination – but she is an Anglican. She is living out the repeated assurances of Instruments of Communion to respect the dignity of LGBTIQ people, to oppose their victimisation and to strive to end criminal sanction for just being gay.
We all can take up her lead. When people do not have a voice they do not need someone to speak for them, they need support so they can speak for themselves.
Judge Michael Elburu – one of three judges ruling onthe case said: “Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalized,”
We believe in human dignity – all are made in the image of God.