Botswana: Anchor SRHR priorities on community experiences

Botswana: Anchor SRHR priorities on community experiences

Date: January 20, 2021
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By Dumiso Gatsha,

Gaborone, 4 December: Botswana’s SRHR landscape is characterised by a lack of political will, policy frameworks and programming that safeguard and strengthen bodily autonomy and integrity for all its citizens. Whilst equitable comprehensive sex education, safe abortion and gender affirmative healthcare are notable shortcomings; progress has been made in raising the age of consent, initiating a sex offenders’ registry and operationalising tangible avenues for justice for survivors of violence. This progress is marked with struggle and conflict civil society and concerned citizens have had to endure. However, as with any normative structure, system, or change – someone is bound to be left out.

Lived experiences

GG* and Abi*  are members of the LGBTIQ+ community, living in comparably remote and underserved areas. Their experiences are shared across the country, as normative public health programming largely focuses on HIV. Although there are shared risks of contracting HIV – for gender diverse individuals like them, there are unique vulnerabilities that further aggravate their bodily autonomy at state, community, and individual levels. These include harmful gender norms they do not ascribe to, which often leads to discriminiation against and/or being subjected to various forms of violence. The repressive environments they live in make it difficult to truly express oneself, love freely and even secure dignified healthcare.For example, for a masculine presenting lesbian like Abi; it is difficult to have conversations on menstrual health with peers. This would be even more challenging with personal support structures and health professionals. GG stresses the same, as a gender non-conforming individual: they have been accused of tampering with their menstrual cycle when trying to seek assistance for their persistent hormonal problems. This is not exclusive to LGBTIQ+ individuals, but also broader public concerns.

COVID-19 experiences

COVID-19 precautions presented unique challenges to freedom of movement, connecting with other community members, and receiving critical SRHR services and information.[1] Although technology provided some alternatives; significant gaps remained in how gender minorities would receive safe sex commodities, could access services and more importantly, be safe. LGBTIQ+ experienced the shadow pandemic of violence, sexual abuse and deteriorating mental health. These were compounded with difficulty in navigating the pain and harm in daily experiences at home or work,[2] if employed as essential services.

A feminist approach is needed to addressing challenges experienced by LGBTIQ+ individuals in Botswana.[3] This requires reviewing and recognizing the intersecting challenges to agency in sex related decision making and safety in social determinants to bodily autonomy. It demands of SRHR programming, policy, and priorities to be anchored on community experiences. This is the only way in which the commitments of leaving no one behind and safeguarding universal human rights can be achieved. A world where GG and Abi can occupy religious, cultural, work and home spaces just as comfortable and as equitable as they would in the intimacy of their relationships. That they need not hide or fear making informed and consensual choices in relation to body, mind and spirit. It is this ideal that they continue to stimulate conversations within their communities to try and effect meaningful change.

*GG is a human rights defender and community volunteer.

*Abi is the head of an LBTQ grassroots collective based in the North of Botswana, FrancisTrans.

Dumiso Gatsha, Founder, Success Capital NGO. Dumi (they, them, their) is proudly Pan African and unequivocally non-binary queer feminist working on eliminating the barriers between grassroots experiences and global policy making. Dumi has worked in corporate, non-profit and international development sectors, and is the founder of Success Capital, a youth led, managed, and grassroots-serving NGO, whose work centers on moving LGBTIQ+ youth from a state of survival to one of success.




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