Wednesday, 19 June, 2019


Cheers as Botswana's high court decriminalises gay sex

Gay pride flag File The Botswana High Court ruled to decriminalise homosexuality on 11 June 2019
Bennie Garza | 11 June, 2019, 22:26

The High Court in Botswana has announced its decision to scrap laws criminalising gay sex, in a landmark victory for African LGBT+ rights campaigners.

"There's nothing reasonable in discriminating", he said. "The question of private morality should not be the concerns of the law".

Angola was the first African country to legalise homosexuality in 2019 after lawmakers passed a bill to update their Penal Code to decriminalised gay sex. "The state can not be sheriff in people's bedrooms".

In welcoming the decision Tashwill Esterhuizen, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender and Sex Workers Rights Programme at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), said: "The Botswana courts have once again shown themselves to be champions of jurisprudence that acknowledges the dignity of LGBT persons, and that they too, have the right to equal protection before the law".

There were jubilant scenes in the packed courtroom in the capital Gabarone when the unanimous decision that homosexuality was "not un-African" was read out.

In March, the court postponed a ruling on the issue after an unnamed applicant challenged two sections of the penal code under which offenders face a jail sentence of up to seven years. "The real work starts now".

"It is a day to celebrate pride, compassion and love", UNAIDS executive director Gunilla Carlsson said in a statement after Tuesday's ruling.

The law has been in place since 1965 when it was brought in by the colonial British government.

Last month, a Kenyan high court heard a similar case but dismissed it.

"There are also many people of same-sex relationships in this country who have been violated and have also suffered in silence for fear of being discriminated", Masisi said.

"Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected", he told the December gathering.

The case came after Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a 21-year-old student from University of Botswana petitioned for the decriminalisation arguing that society had changed. Of the more than 70 countries in the world that still ban same-sex relations, roughly half are in Africa. Other countries, such as Mozambique and the Seychelles, have simply erased mention of homosexuality from their penal codes during the rewriting process that has accompanied constitutional reform.

In Sudan, as well as parts of Nigeria and Somalia, it is punishable by death.

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