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Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights: Botswana group works to improve health care for trans, intersex people

African Women for Sexual Health and Gender Managing Director Hazel Mokgathi. (Photo courtesy of Hazel Mokgathi)

An advocacy group in Botswana is working with medical providers to improve transgender and intersex people’s access to health care.

African Women for Sexual Health and Gender Justice in late January conducted a training over a three-day period in the Batswana capital of Gaborone.

Eleven health care providers — seven doctors, four nurses, a patient councillor and an endocrinologist — participated in the training.

Five of the attendees
work at Princess Marina Hospital, a public hospital in Gaborone. One of the
doctors is affiliated with the Botswana-Harvard AIDS Institute Partnership,
while two others work at private clinics. Two other trainee attendees work at a
youth clinic in Francistown, a city in eastern Botswana near the country’s border
with Zimbabwe, and a third is from the nearby village of Mandunyane.

African Women for Sexual
Health and Gender Justice Managing Director Hazel Mokgathi told the Washington
Blade that “human rights violations against a number of trans women have
been documented” in Mandunyane.

Mokgathi said training
participants agreed to work with her organization to secure funding from the
Botswana Ministry of Health and Wellness for trans- and intersex-specific
health care. She told the Blade they also agreed to help trans Batswana obtain
court orders to legally change their gender markers “more swiftly, which
in turn will enable a trans person to get HRT (hormone replacement therapy) at
a public hospital for the first time” in the country.”

Mokgathi noted training
participants agreed to work within a network that would allow trans people to
receive free hormone replacement therapy at private hospitals. Mokgathi also
told the Blade that Princess Marina Hospital agreed to use gender-neutral
medical cards for their patients.

“We have bagged a
little win for us out here and its something worth celebrating when so much is with
COVID-19 exacerbating the injustices against sexual and gender minorities of
intersectional identities,” said Mokgathi.

Mokgathi attended the Human Rights Campaign’s 2018 Global Innovative Advocacy Summit in D.C. Her participation in the HRC gathering coincided with LGBTQ rights advances in Botswana.

Botswana’s High Court in June 2019 issued a ruling that decriminalized consensual same-sex sexual relations in the country. The Batswana government subsequently appealed the landmark decision, but observers say it will bolster efforts to decriminalize LGBTQ people in other African countries.

The Botswana Court of
Appeals in 2016 ruled
the Batswana government should allow Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana, an
LGBTQ advocacy group known by the acronym LEGABIBO, to register with it.

Mokgathi told the Blade
it is important for Batswana advocacy groups to continue “bringing gaps
between public health dispensation and SOGIE (sexual orientation, gender
identity and expression) minorities.”

“That’s what we
essentially did,” she added, referring to her organization’s work.
“We boldly created and claimed spaces for trans and intersex folks within
the public health system.”

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Washington Blade: Gay News, Politics, LGBT Rights