At the close of 2022, the report from the Presidential Commission of inquiry into the review of the constitution of Botswana was published for the public to read. The commission spent 6 months travelling across the country collating views from Batswana on how they want their constitution to be framed. At the end of this tour, the commission then consulted various interest groups including LEGABIBO.

During the course of tour, LEGABIBO published a number of articles urging members of the LGBTIQ+ community to attend the constitutional review sessions, educated the community on the process and their rights. LEGABIBO managed to have members of the LGBTIQ+ community attend 37 of the dates on the commission’s itinerary. Of the dates attended submissions were made at 29 of the dates. Beyond these dates, people across the country were also mobilized to send in letters in their various districts.

During the constitutional review process, LEGABIBO educated members of the LGBTIQ+ community in more than 50 locations about the constitutional review process and their rights. There were also collaborations with other stakeholders such as the UPR NGO Working Group to ensure LGBTIQ+ rights are advocated for. Pastors also enlisted LEGABIBO’s help to ensure they properly advocate for LGBTIQ+ persons rights.

It is important to note that challenges arose from interacting with this process; to begin with, there was discrimination at these sessions. Old men and women across the country vehemently expressed their anti - LGBT views, some even threatening to make members of the commission disappear if they allowed same sex marriages. These views made it difficult for people to show up and advocate for LGBTIQ+ rights. In some of the areas where LEGABIBO was present to assist locals, some of the speakers backed out due to these views. One such instance was in Ghanzi where members of the LGBTIQ+ community had agreed to be present at the Kgotla but withdrew last minute due to the fear they had of the society they live in. LEGABIBO then hosted a 2-day workshop with community leaders in Ghanzi to educate them on LGBTIQ+ issues; to build a relationship between them and LGBTIQ+ identifying individuals.

It also did not help that these sessions were held in the Kgotla where LGBTIQ+ identifying individuals did not feel safe. There were instances like in Parakarungu where trans identifying individuals were not allowed to enter the kgotla for the interest group session because they were wearing certain items of clothing. The chairperson of the commission would even note that the Kgotla may not be the space for talking about certain issues but the commission would then host the interest group session that was supposed to be a safe space in the Kgotla.

Furthermore, the secretariat would also deny some members of the LGBTIQ+ community an opportunity to speak. One such incident was in Shakawe when a local gay man was told to sit down because somebody had already spoken for LGBTIQ+ rights and this decision was not cognizant of how multifaceted LGBTIQ+ issues are. One presenter cannot cover all the necessary issues. This continued throughout the process; it happened in Mochudi, Maun, Serowe, Francistown and other areas. LGBTIQ+ identifying individuals had to resort to submitting letters. This meant that the religious voices were more prominent, as they were also allowed free terrain to talk about their anti-LGBT views. They would allow more than one person to express anti-lgbt views in a sitting but limiting LGBT advocates to 1 person.

It was very disappointing to then see the report collated by the commission have no nuance of the varying issues affecting the LGBTQ+ community. The report also did not submit that the constitution should explicitly protect the LGBTQ+ community from non-discrimination. Even with decriminalization case judgement and the anti-LGBT views expressed at these sessions, the commission did not see the need for our constitution to protect the LGBTQ+. The only reason given was that section 3 and 15 afford every individual protection which shows the commission chose to ignore how LGBTIQ+ individuals have had to use judicial redress to access certain rights.

It is commendable that they did ask that intersex individuals be afforded constitutional protection however the same protection could have been afforded to trans Individuals.

As the constitutional review process is still on-going, we still hope that our political leaders will be more in tune with the pleas of the LGBTIQ+ community and afford them constitutional protection. The commission failed in this regard.