Botswana’s Sunday Standard newspaper recently carried a story about the formation of a so-called ex-gay organisation, Overcomers.
While no ties to a US organisation of the same name and with a similar mission were reported, it is thought that the Botswana group may have been influenced by the longer established US Christian group also called the Overcomers.
The Botswana group which was reported to have been registered as a Trust was reported as being on a mission “geared towards rehabilitating the bisexuals, homosexuals, prostitutes and the intersexual (hormonal sex change).”
According to the newspaper report the organisation has been set up by a Lahil Baitlotli who claims he is an ex-gay who has “dumped the gay lifestyle for a healthy normal life.”
To gauge the reaction from LGBTI and sex work advocates and activists in Botswana, Behind the Mask spoke to organisations in the sector.
The as yet unregistered LeGaBiBo (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana) whose mandate is to advocate and lobby for the rights of LGBTI community in Botswana, said, “Being homosexual is not a choice, hence people who are homosexual by choice can be rehabilitated and if Overcomers Trust wants to rehabilitate those people there is no problem.”
A spokesperson from the organisation added, “LeGaBiBo has no cases of LGBTI who have reported that they need rehabilitation, but many cases they have are of those who want to be empowered on how to deal with acceptance [of their sexual orientation] at family level.”
We also spoke to a representative of Sisonke, a non-registered organisation that empowers sex workers to advocate for their rights and which also provides sex workers with information on health issues.
Sisonke’s representative said “Sex workers have many different reasons for indulging in this work, therefore if one feels they do not want to do the work anymore and need rehabilitation there is no problem.”
The representative continued, “Overcomers is not the first to come up with this kind of mandate there is Nkaikela in Tlokweng which rehabilitates sex workers. If a member of Sisonke wants to leave sex work and join these other organizations they are free to do so.”
Rainbow Identity which is a registered non government organization said, “We are much interested in the activities of Overcomers and would really love to see how one can be rehabilitated from being intersex.”
However, the Botswana Coalition of Non Government Organization (BOCONGO) said “We are not aware of any organization called Overcomers and even if we knew of the organization we would not house such organization as we do not have clear stand on the issue of LGBTI and sex work as organization.”
Efforts to get hold of a spokesperson from Overcomers were fruitless as we have been unable to trace the organisation or its officials.
In the US the Overcomers are affiliated to Exodus International, thought to be the world’s biggest ex-gay organisation.