A former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, is openly calling on his countrymen to stop treating homosexuality as a crime (as at present it is). Similarly, Zimbabwe’s prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai told the BBC that his country’s constitution ought to protect gays and lesbians–quite a turnabout, considering his homophobic public comments in the past and his coalition government with homophobe Robert Mugabe of “dogs and pigs” fame . Mogae’s reasons are more practical than tolerant; he says he doesn’t “understand” homosexuality, but cites the spread of HIV/AIDS as a key reason to work openly with LGBTQ people.
“We can preach about behavioural change, but as long as we confine gays and lesbians into dark corners because of our inflexibility to accommodate them, the battle on HIV and AIDS can never be won,” said Mogae at the time.
Nor the battle for civil equality, of course, but in countries this conservative, a forthright recognition of the realities of public health is a welcome start.