GABORONE – The landmark ruling in which the High Court of Botswana – meant to remove legal provisions that have been blamed for discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, has won praise from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.
The Global Fund said it strongly supported efforts to promote and protect human rights and gender equality, and was committed to removing legal and other barriers to health services, adding that taking action to reduce discrimination and stigma was an essential part of ending the epidemics of HIV, TB and malaria.
“We stand together with the community leaders, civil society organizations and all supporters of human rights who contributed to this legal breakthrough. Botswana is showing great leadership, and this is an important milestone. Together, we can remove human rights-related barriers to accessing health services across Africa,” said Peter Sads, the Executive Director of the Global Fund.
Activists and community leaders in Botswana highlighted the human rights challenges posed by outdated laws that led to increased stigma, discrimination and violence against LGBT people. Among other things, criminalizing sexual relations could stop people from accessing and using HIV prevention, testing and treatment services, and increase risk of acquiring HIV, according to the fund.
“When a decision like this is made, it creates a platform for discussion in other countries – a springboard for change in the region. Now the real work starts, she said, to translate the change in the law into change on the ground,” said Nana Gleeson of the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS.
“Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), used expert legal advocacy to make strategic interventions that helped lead to this court decision, and that evidence from key population programming made a significant difference.”
The Global Fund joins partners to address human rights- and gender-related barriers to health and to respond to the needs of key and vulnerable populations everywhere.