Botswana Debates The Relaxation of Anti-Gay Laws
Students at Botswana University Oppose Humanitarian Move
Johannesburg Daily Mail & Guardian, January
Johannesburg, South Africa
Reverend Dan Hoffman made an appeal in a panel discussion at the University of Botswana
recently for the SADC countrys anti-gay laws to be reviewed, but student bodies
oppose his call for Christian compassion, the Botswana Gazette reports.
All the panel lists called for a relaxation of legislation, but the mostly student
audience opposed any changes and rejected homosexuality in Botswana society.
The four panel lists included the Reverend Rupert Hambira of the UCCSA and head of the
Botswana Christian Council who bore the brunt of the audiences attack.
Reverend Hambira, vying for a parliamentary seat in the upcoming elections said
Christians must [?] people on humanitarian ground, regardless of their sexual orientation.
He made the appeal saying gays are Gods children too, and deserved acceptance as he
argued against prejudice.
The newspaper quoted him as saying, "We must judge no one, leave it to God."
Tshepo Motswagole, a conservative politician argued the other way saying that the
minority should not dictate to the state.
He is reported as saying that "God made man and said be fruitful and multiply.
This is inconsistent with the practice of homosexuality."
Motswagole said Rev. Hambira was interpreting the Bibles principles of tolerance
incorrectly and that Christian tolerance did not include acceptance of gays.
Biti Butale, a right-wing youth activist was reported as saying the majority are
"traumatised by homosexuality," and the accompanying "ideas from overseas
Dr. Mulingi, head of sociology at the University of Botswana, and panellist, expressed
the idea that homosexuality should not be encouraged in children but that it should be up
to the mature child to decide for himself. He expressed disapproval of homosexuality as a
Catholic, adding that the lifestyle is immoral.
He however cited instances in Central Africa where he came from where the practice was
common, even among married men. He observed also that in homosexual relations one always
took the male role and the other the female.
His gender stereotype argument took the view that either way, these relationships were
like heterosexual ones, and were therefore not to be criminalised. Either consciously or
subconsciously it is a man and a woman.
Dr. Mulungi view was one of tolerance and that people were born with homosexual
tendencies. Society has to accept them.
Reverend Hambira defended his view of acceptance by saying the Bible was "tinted
with human errors and subjective opinions," according to the article.
But Reverends most poignant statement on the Biblical defence of homophobia came
in an unexpected form when he reminded the audience "Remember the Boers used the
Bible to engineer apartheid."
The reported debate generated so much interest the Botswana Gazette was obliged to
print an editorial comment, and surprisingly, in defence of social tolerance of
"We applaud the courage displayed by the Reverend Rupert Hambira in vigorously
taking a stand during the debate at the University on homosexuality. Despite the obvious
hostility of his audience he and it must be noted the other panelists called
for tolerance to wards homosexuality in the society and a relaxation of legislation.
In the context of southern Africa, the Reverend Hambiras views are very much in
the minority and his audience probably reflects societys apparent abhorrence
for homosexuality, and believes, as one of the speakers at the debate shouted from the
audience, that homosexuality is alien to African tradition and was imported from America
However, as another panellist pointed out, homosexuality is not a European phenomena
[sic] and is practised in a number of African societies. Rev. Hambiras stand, in
going against the populist view, is particularly courageous because of his political
ambitions and it could well lose him votes.
However, it is perhaps because of his stand; because of his strongly held believes
[sic] in the rights of individuals to be protected from being persecuted, that people
should seriously consider him as the type of person we need in Parliament. To the
so-called Christians in the audience, and those who claimed to be ministers of religious,
we can only draw your attention to Matthew 7:1: Judge not that ye be not
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