BONELA applauds efforts to open debates on homosexuality and sex workers in an era of HIV/AIDS

21 April 2006
BONELA applauds efforts to open debates on homosexuality and sex workers in an era of HIV/AIDS

GABORONE – Botswana’s Prisons Commissioner Herman Kau has been making press headlines recently, quoted as calling for a review of policies on sex work and homosexuality aimed at making practical gains in the fight against the HIV epidemic.

Kau’s comments have started a debate that is necessary in the context of HIV/AIDS, according to the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA).

“It’s about time we face some of these challenges about the epidemic,” says the organisation’s Director Christine Stegling. “As long as we marginalise people, they will not be accessible to us nor, for example, able to access public health services, information or the tools to prevent infection.”

To open up the discussion on such issues is a sensible step to take because what is needed is a change in community attitudes towards and in legislative framework around such controversies.

In the days after Commissioner Kau’s comments, it has become apparent that many are ignorant about these topics, wrongly arguing that legalising sex work and homosexuality, for example, would create demand for specific sexual behaviours. What is more certain is that these activities already exist in society and should be included in strategies concerning HIV/AIDS. Botswana may only meet its goal to prevent new HIV cases only if all segments of society are involved.

In the spirit of botho and respecting diversity, BONELA has been taking a stand against discriminating against different forms of sexual behaviours. The organisation, for example, lends its support to the group LeGaBiBo (Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana) and would like to promote further discussion on the issue of condom distribution in prisons.

BONELA is a Gaborone-based non-governmental organisation working on the ethical, legal and human rights dimensions of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Botswana.  BONELA is involved in research, training, advocacy, legal assistance and public education.

For further information, please contact Cynthia Lee, BONELA Media and Advocacy Officer, at 393-2516.