The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) would like to commend the release of a gay couple earlier sentenced to 14 years imprisonment through presidential pardon by the President of Malawi, Mr. Bingu wa Mutarika.
BONELA applauds the courage and responsiveness exhibited by Mr. wa Mutarika in pardoning the couple. As a human rights organization, BONELA is however concerned by the lack of acknowledgement of sexual minorities in African countries. The organization therefore calls for progressive leadership in this regard, as the perpetual stigma and discrimination of sexual minorities in Africa only serves to drive the pandemic underground, where most at risk populations cannot access prevention strategies.
Ms. Felistus Motimedi, the BONELA Coordinator of the Prevention and Research Initiative for Sexual Minorities said: “We would like to urge African countries, including Botswana to uphold the basic human rights to privacy, association, assembly, gender identity and non-discrimination, because failure to do so reverses the milestones achieved in the response to HIV and AIDS in Africa. BONELA hopes that Africa as a continent will heed the call by the United Nations Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon to repeal all criminal laws often used as a basis for discrimination and criminalization of sexual minorities.”
She added that in Botswana, the continued criminalization and discrimination of sexual minorities will not enable the country to reach the Vision 2016 goal of zero new infections if sexual minorities are not included in current strategies. “We therefore call for all sectors in the national HIV and AIDS response, to introspect on the current strategies deployed, and address gaps emanating there-from relating to most at risk populations. The inclusion of sexual minorities in policy and legal interventions will ultimately result in the recognition of their peculiar needs by health care providers who will in turn develop appropriate strategies. ” said Ms Motimedi.