Gay in Africa – The Struggles of Living in Botswana

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When Africa and homosexuality come up in the same sentence, there are often assumptions of extreme homophobia, imprisonment, and death. Although these labels can be correctly applied to various African countries (Cameroon, Uganda, Nigeria), it is worth nothing that South Africa is known for having progressive LGBT views, and a lot of African countries fall somewhere in the middle.

Botswana definitely falls somewhere in the middle when it comes to the continent’s varying degrees of rainbow rights (or lack of). Kagiso Sebeso is an openly gay man that spent 27 years of his life residing there.  Sebeso gave OUTinPerth an insight into the struggles he encountered.

Although it is legal to be gay in Botswana, ‘coming out’ can result in being disowned from your family and high social scrutiny. ‘This is a genuine fear grounded in truth,’ explained Sebeso, ‘there is an old law in the penal code which criminalises any sex act that is not a penis entering into a vagina. On the other hand the more recent Employment Act (2010) states that it is against the law to discriminate against someone in the work place because of their sexual orientation’, he said.

Even though Sebeso didn’t come out while living in Botswana, homophobic encounters were rife. The 32 year old talked about parents teaching kids to throw abuse at him as he walked the streets.

‘It was on an everyday basis. I was quite strong for my tiny little body though! I would throw around my arms and legs. Going to high school my confidence was coming up a little bit, people used to say “Oh you’re gay” and I would say “Your point is?” people just slam you down because you’re different’.

When asked how he thought we could improve the conditions of the LGBT people of Botswana, Sebeso spoke of more media attention, ‘Lesbians are being killed on an everyday basis in Africa, and the media is not reporting those, nobody knows, unless you are connected somehow with the media in those countries.’

The younger generations also bring hope to Sebeso, ‘The young ones are actually coming out and are more confident and comfortable about their sexuality even though you do have a lot of people my age who are still in the closet’.

Sebeso stands in hope that equality will come eventually. For those struggling he gave some advice, ‘Remember, people are always going to talk, and when people talk you need to take a stand for yourself.  My Grandpa would say “if they tease you at school and you come home crying, they’ve won! Why satisfy them? You know better.” ’

 

Nadine Walker

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