Same-sex sexual activity (specifically including women) is punishable by 7 years imprisonment. Yet employees are protected by law from being terminated because of their sexual orientation or HIV status. The Constitution guarantees rights for all people to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly. These were upheld for LGBTI people in 2014, when the High Court ruled that denying NGO registration to Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) violated these rights, adding “it is also not a crime to be homosexual”.

While the case has been appealed, “(t)he judgment sends a message of hope across a continent where the lives of LGBTI people have become more difficult and more dangerous in recent years,” said Caine Youngman, a litigant. LEGABIBO’s goals are to advocate for the rights of LGBTI people, raise awareness, and educate on health and psycho-social support. Rainbow Identity Association (RIA) is an organization of transgender and intersex people, which was legally registered in 2010.

Envisioning’s research looks broadly at the lived experiences of LGBTI people in Botswana, as well as the legal context and grassroots organizing. Envisioning has produced a video short, and a documentary is currently in post-production.  

Tshepo Riqu Cosadu:

Keywords: Rainbow Identity Association; LGBT rights; Trans; Transgender; Transsexual; Family; Gender Identity; Gender Dysphoria; Gender Variance.

Tshepo: “We’ve got a very strong sense of culture in Botswana, a tradition that says you’re either man or you’re woman. Men do this, women do this. Transitioning from one gender…into one of one’s choosing is a mission that - I think it puts a lot of people in confusion.”

Synopsis: Tshepo Riqu Cosadu identifies as a transgender woman. She is the Advocacy Officer for Rainbow Identity Association in Botswana, working as an advocate for transgender and intersex rights on health issues, HIV/AIDS, prenatal and postnatal care, transgender parenting, and legal recognition and rights for transgender and intersex people. Tshepo speaks about the strong culturally embedded gender roles in Botswana, based on a female/male binary, and the issues that this creates for transgender and transsexual individuals. Learning about gender dysphoria through the media, Tshepo began to identify herself as trans, and speaks about how that gave her a sense pf affirmation and belonging. Tshepo emphasizes the importance of acceptance of gender variance and works to advocate positive ideas about trans identities and inclusion.

Manno Setaelo:

Keywords: Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo); Lesbian; Family; Sexual Orientation; Lesbian Parenting; Religion; LGBT rights.

Manno: “I love God…and there’s no man who’s gonna come and tell me, ‘because you are like that, you can’t worship your God.’”

Synopsis: Manno Setaelo speaks about her ability to come out as a lesbian through the support and sense of community gained from her involvement in Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), which emphasizes the importance of not hiding one’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Manno discusses a conversation with her brother, who questions her sexual identity, and in particular, that it would be impossible for her to have children as a lesbian.  Manno discusses the various options for a lesbian to have children including a conversation with a housemate who suggested that she should just have sex with a man once to get pregnant. Manno explains that her religious beliefs do not interfere with her sexual identity and vice versa. Manno’s resilience in the face of conventional views challenges assumptions of both the heteronormative family and religion-based homophobia. 

Caine Kaene Youngman:

Keywords: Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo); Gay; Religion; Family; Health and Mental Health; Sexual Orientation; Gender Identity; Stigma.

Caine: “When I came to terms with my sexuality, I decided never to let anybody stand in my way. Whenever somebody challenges me or to tries to look down on me, I will stand up.”

Synopsis: A leader in Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), Caine Kaene Youngman speaks about growing up and remembers thinking that his feelings would pass in time. His mother recalls him as a ‘normal boy’, until he went to senior school. She says it is not a choice to be gay. It is clear in the interview that Caine’s sexual orientation caused a great deal of pain for both Caine and his mother due to society’s lack of acceptance of homosexuals. Caine speaks about being very religious, and that he changed religion in order to find peace within himself, and to live his life. Caine believes children should not have to face challenges surrounding sexuality on their own. With the support of his mother and LeGaBiBo, Caine became the litigant in a constitutional challenge to the criminalization of homosexuality in Botswana, and to the law denying registration to LeGaBiBo. For more on Caine’s story see Botho –LGBT Lives in Botswana