Pride Month Reception: Ambassador Van Vranken’s Remarks

Tuesday, June 20, 2023

As prepared for delivery

  • Thank you for joining us to celebrate Pride Month.
  • All protocols observed. Distinguished guests, representatives from the Government of Botswana, fellow members of the diplomatic community, and advocates from the LGBTQI+ community, it’s my honor to welcome you to my residence this evening.
  • As I welcomed each of you on your way in, I was struck by the diversity and breadth of this group. Not only do we have activists, academics, and civil
    society – we also have like-minded colleagues from the international diplomatic community and the Government of Botswana in attendance. This is a true testament to our collective commitment to support and advance the human rights of LGBTQI+ people.
  • Earlier this month, I convened the staff at the embassy to speak about our Pride Month and 2023 programming and to acknowledge the Pride Flag that
    currently flies with the U.S. flag at the U.S. Embassy’s chancery building. The messages we discussed and embraced were ones of inclusion, acceptability,
    diversity, and human understanding. We agreed that understanding and embracing our differences make us stronger as a collective whole.
  • Our commitment to honoring Pride Month and hoisting the Pride Flag represents a cornerstone in the broader support of human rights in Botswana and around the world. We will continue to fly this flag for the month of June.
  • When I delivered my letters of credence to President Masisi last month, we discussed several issues of mutual interest to our countries and to southern
    Africa. This discussion included my points to emphasize the United States’ historical commitment to preserving and advancing human rights issues. As
    part of this effort, we write annual Human Rights Reports in countries around the world that focus on many issues across the spectrum of human rights. We solicit feedback from a multiplicity of sources when comprehensively developing these reports, and we always endeavor to ensure that under represented voices are heard and their concerns are documented. This includes all of you present – I encourage all of you to continue to raise your voices, share information, develop your contacts and networks, and stand up for what you believe in. I encourage you to demand that we uphold your human rights and dignity and call us out when we do not.
  • I was told when I arrived in Botswana just a couple of months ago, that I was arriving at a good moment for the LGBTQI+ movement. The success of the “decrim” law passage and subsequent Court of Appeal decision to uphold that decision puts Botswana on the map as a leader for LGBTQI+ people. Botswana’s neighbors don’t all agree with these legal protections. As you know better than anyone, voices in the opposition groups question the law and seek to cap any further advances in LGQBTI+ rights both in Botswana and the region.
  • While the movement has made strides and should be proud for the legal victories in Botswana, there is much work to do. We cannot – as collective advocates for human rights issues and LGBTQI+ rights – pause and assume the journey is over. The recent passage of legislation in Uganda tells us that
    more work is needed, not only in Africa, but around the world to educate people and uphold rights.
  • I challenge each of you to come together around a shared strategy to continue the advances we collectively seek and commit to work together to chart that path to success. I commit to you as a partner in this effort, and I look forward to meeting with you, discussing priorities, and developing strategies to chart the way forward to achieving our shared goals.
  • As some of you know, just a few weeks ago we had a surprise visit from President Biden’s Special Envoy for LGBTQ Jessica Stern. Special Envoy Stern
    visited Botswana as part of her travels to the region. We committed to partnering with her office on some Pride Month events and we look forward
    to supporting her message.
  • Lastly, let me assure you that tonight’s reception is not a stand-alone event. It’s just a start. We plan to do more this year. Our ongoing social media campaign to celebrate Pride Month will be followed by our efforts to continue to raise awareness of LGBTQI+ issues throughout 2023 and beyond.
  • I would like to close by acknowledging the excellent work my Deputy Chief of Mission and long-acting Charge de Affaires Amanda Jacobsen has done to keep these important issues in the limelight here in Botswana. Amanda, thanks to you, we have not only expanded our base of interlocuters and partners in Botswana to collectively advance LGBTQI+ issues, but we have also taken leaps to expand our existing grant funding to support worthy causes.
  • Thank you.