September 14, 2020 at 6:50 pm PDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Botswana group works to improve health care for trans, intersex people

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

GABORONE, Botswana – 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 (AWOSHe) 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 councilor 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.

AWOSHe Managing Director Hazel Mokgathi told the Los Angeles 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.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Los Angeles Blade. Follow Michael

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