LGBT travellers in Botswana
All over the world, people in traditional, rural communities tend to have more conservative attitudes than the residents of more cosmopolitan cities, and the people of Botswana are no exception. Thus, as in many other African countries, non-straight sexual identities (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) are considered a taboo subject by many Botswana citizens.
Although it’s acceptable for same-sex friends throughout Botswana to wander around hand in hand without a second thought, such behaviour has no sexual or relationship connotations. In conservative areas, however, public displays of affection or overtly sexual behaviour between any two people, whether heterosexual or LGBT, are strongly frowned upon. Any clear indications of an LGBT relationship would be regarded as taboo in these areas, where traditional views prevail. So we advise all our travellers, gay or straight, to avoid overt displays of affection or sexual behaviour, as these could cause offence.
Although Botswana is very forward moving when it comes to LGBT rights, such traditional views are particularly prevalent in rural parts, which are still inhabited by a large number of the population. You'll still find strands of this conservative thinking in the larger towns and cities, too, but there are also many people here with more liberal views – and in cities such as Gaborone some individuals are openly gay.
In the tourism industry, and especially in Botswana’s more remote camps, lodges and hotels, staff have been dealing for decades with a wide variety of guests with different backgrounds. It's notable that rooms are almost universally configured with double or single beds, as requested, without fuss.
Even if some members of staff have personal views that are relatively conservative, it is almost unheard of to learn of someone who isn't tolerant and relaxed in their professional capacity.
Further sources of adviceWhatever your background, we hope that this advice is helpful, but do feel free to call us if you need further advice or reassurance. Alternatively, one of the following may be able to help:
- LEGABIBO The first legally recognised LGBT organisation in Botswana.
- There is more general advice, not specific to Africa, on the FCO's LGB&T foreign travel advice page.
- The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) provides information on the laws of countries worldwide, focused around a series of summary maps.
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