By U.S. Ambassador Howard Van Vranken
June 30, 2023
The month of June marks a special place for those who work to uphold universal human rights, as the United States observes Pride Month. June commemorates the 1969 Stonewall Uprising, when New York City police raided a bar popular with the LGBTQI+ community, and the patrons resisted. The uprising created the opportunity for millions to press for full and equal enjoyment of human rights by members of LGBTQI+ persons in the United States and around the world.
This Pride Month, 54 years after the Stonewall Uprising, while proudly flying the Pride flag at the U.S. Embassy, I reflect on decades of progress in human rights issues, particularly the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons. However, there remains lots of work ahead of us, and we all have an important role to play.
We commend the LGBTQI+ movement in Botswana, as many steps have been taken to both protect and recognize LGTBQI+ persons. We continue to celebrate the success of the decriminalization of consensual same-sex relationships and subsequent Court of Appeals decision reaffirming that protection. This decision puts Botswana on the map as a leader for the LGBTQI+ movement, and we hope to see this reputation flourish.
Our commitment to honoring Pride Month also represents a cornerstone in the broader support of human rights in Botswana and around the world. The United States is dedicated to partnering with Botswana to uphold respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of religion or belief, supporting religious tolerance, and investing $1 billion in global health initiatives over the past 20 years through PEPFAR.
On my arrival to Botswana, I raised issues of mutual importance to the United States and Botswana, including the United States’ emphasis on preserving and advancing human rights at home and abroad, with government and civil society partners.
This year, to celebrate Pride Month, it was my honor to host a reception celebrating LGBTQI+ milestones and the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons with members of the international diplomatic community, government officials, the media, local LGBTQI+ rights advocates, and LGBTQI+ persons. Together, we reflected on the strides Botswana has made to expand recognition and respect for LGBTQI+ persons, as well as the need for further progress.
While the movement should be proud of its legal victories in Botswana, we – as collective advocates for respect for human rights– cannot consider our work done. Regardless of one’s gender identity or sexual orientation, these issues affect us all. Gender-based violence, which significantly affects LGBTQI+ persons, remains pervasive. The recent enactment of draconian legislation in Uganda shows us that more work is needed—not only in Africa, but around the world, including in the United States—to educate people and uphold respect for the human rights of all. We further commend collective efforts in Botswana to codify the rights of LGBTQI+ persons into law, thereby supporting the recognition of the universality of human rights broadly.
Pride Month will soon come to a close, but our commitment to protecting the rights of LGBTQI+ persons remains steadfast. Our ongoing social media campaign to celebrate Pride Month will be followed by additional efforts to raise awareness on LGBTQI+ issues through ongoing discussions and activities with our civil society partners. I have also directed my team to support the Department of State’s larger push to protect the rights of LGBTQI+ persons by implementing our Pride Month and LGBTQI+ priorities throughout 2023 and beyond.
We look forward to continuing to walk with Botswana down this path to achieve our shared goals and values of promoting respect for human rights.