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STOP THE ABUSE SADC countries challenged to prioritise LGBTQI+ rightsS

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BY BRADLEY FORTUIN

In March 2022, over 60 LGBTIQ+ activists from the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region met in Johannesburg to strengthen regional collaboration and promote strategies that advance the rights and well-being of LGBTIQ+ persons within the Southern Africa region.

The convening noted that few SADC Member States had taken any steps to implement the 2014 Resolution of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons based on their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity.

Per Resolution 275, we call on all SADC Member States to end all acts of violence and abuse, whether committed by State or non-state actors, by enacting and effectively applying appropriate laws prohibiting and punishing all forms of violence, including those targeting persons based on their imputed or real sexual orientation or gender identities, ensuring proper investigation and diligent prosecution of perpetrators, and establishing judicial procedures responsive to the needs of victims.

As SADC-based LGBTIQ+ activists, we call for legislative and policy reform across the region to recognize the right to dignity and non-discrimination of all persons. We urge the Member States to reform criminal laws which target people based on sexual orientation, gender identity, reproductive choice or economic status.

As SADC LGBTIQ+ citizens, we further call for increased efforts by the Member States to foster social inclusion, including by recognizing the diversity of familial relationships that exist, ensure legal gender recognition for transgender and gender diverse persons, and ensuring that human rights defenders work in an enabling environment free of stigma and reprisals.

As SADC-based LGBTIQ+ activists, we acknowledge efforts made over the years to address HIV impacts on MSM, transgender women and gay men. We, however, observe the gaps in tailored and affirming medical needs for LGBTIQ+ persons, with specific emphasis on transgender and intersex persons. Therefore, we call for amplified efforts by the Member States to scale up access to universal health care, including gender affirmative health care for transgender persons.

As a nation that aspires to be seen as progressive, we would like to remind Botswana of its commitment to upholding and promoting the Sustainable Development Goals. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals understand that development must balance social, economic, and environmental sustainability and that actions in one area will have an impact on results in others. Countries have agreed to give those who are falling behind the most priority while making progress. The Sustainable Development Goals aim to eradicate AIDS, hunger, poverty, and prejudice against women, girls and other marginalized persons. The Sustainable Development Goals must be achieved in every setting, and this requires the creativity, knowledge, technology, and financial resources of the entire population. It is with that in mind that LEGABIBO calls upon the government of Botswana to work with civil society organizations and the trans and gender diverse community in the development of legislative and administrative measures that ensure the procedures for legal gender recognition ordered by the court.

We also call for the promotion and protection of transgender and gender diverse persons from daily experiences of violence, harassment, mockery, exclusion and marginalization. There needs to be protective anti-hate laws that protect sexual and gender minorities. We further urge the society to be inclusive as well respect each other’s basic humanity.

Where there have been positive steps by the Member States to include LGBTIQ+ persons in health care programmes, LBQ+ women and transmen remain excluded from resourcing, evidence generation, and governance structures. We, therefore, call on the Member States to prioritise LBQ women and transmen in Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) related strategies, resourcing, and evidence generation and to prioritise intersex persons in policy and legal reforms.

We finally call on all SADC Member States to hold each other accountable for ensuring the domestication of regional and international treaties to safeguard the fundamental human rights of all citizens. As SADC based LGBTIQ+ activists, we continue to work tirelessly to ensure that all humans, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, ability, religion and any other attribute used to divide us, enjoy their fundamental human rights, and that states uphold their commitment to ensuring the safety and security of their citizens.

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