Botswana’s high court decriminalises gay sex

Botswana’s high court ruled on Tuesday that the criminalisation of gay sex is unconstitutional in a landmark decision for gay rights.

The three judges voted unanimously to revoke the laws that carried a seven-year prison sentence for same-sex relations which are criminalised under Section 164 of the country’s 1965 penal code, which outlaws ‘unnatural offences’.

Homosexuality has been illegal since the late 19th century, when the territory, then known as Bechuanaland, was under British colonial rule.

Delivering his judgement, Judge Michael Leburu said human dignity was "harmed" when minority groups are marginalised and that sexual orientation "is not a fashion statement.

He added: "Any criminalization of love or finding fulfilment in love dilutes compassion and tolerance.” 

The anonymous person who brought the case was supported by Botswana’s lesbian, gay, and bisexual organisation (LEGABIBO).

As the ruling was announced, the courtroom was ecstatic with people leaping up and clapping, LEGABIBO legal policy director Caine Youngman told the Associated Press.

And said "it hit home" when judges announced the right to privacy included the right to choose a partner.

“I’m a gay man. I’ve been out for many years. Now I can live with my partner without worry,” Youngman said. He added that the state might appeal the decision “to appease the homophobes”. It has 30 working days to do so.

The ruling comes as Kenyan judges voted last month to uphold the criminalisation of gay sex. Gay sex is punishable in more than two dozen countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In Mauritania, Sudan, and Somalia, gay sex is punishable by death.

However, Angola decriminalised same-sex relations and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation earlier this year. The Botswanan judges cited recent decriminalisation in India as a precedent in their ruling.

 

Photo: An LGBT/Pride March, April 2019.

Buy Our Journalist A Coffee

The Speaker is run a global team of expert volunteers committed to making political news accessible for the wider public. If you liked this article, please consider making a small donation to support the future work of this author and The Speaker.

Advertising