Last edited: February 12, 2005

Botswana Debates The Relaxation of Anti-Gay Laws

Students at Botswana University Oppose Humanitarian Move

Johannesburg Daily Mail & Guardian, January 19, 1999
Johannesburg, South Africa

Reverend Dan Hoffman made an appeal in a panel discussion at the University of Botswana recently for the SADC country’s 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 audience’s 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 God’s 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 Bible’s 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 and donors."

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 Reverend’s 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 homosexuality.

"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 Hambira’s views are very much in the minority – and his audience probably reflects society’s 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 and Europe.

However, as another panellist pointed out, homosexuality is not a European phenomena [sic] and is practised in a number of African societies. Rev. Hambira’s 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 judged.’"

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