Botswana’s high court has decriminalised homosexuality, on Tuesday, in a landmark ruling that came in favour of the gay rights campaigners.
The move comes barely a month after the Kenyan high court upheld similar laws prohibiting gay sex, and years after Angola and Mozambique scrapped their anti-homosexuality laws.
Handed down by Michael Leburu, a judge, in Gaborone, the capital city, the ruling declared colonial-era laws criminalising gay as being unconstitutional.
“An individual’s right to privacy is not simply the right to be left alone. It extends to the right to make fundamental private choices including those with regards to sexual conduct,” Leburu said.
“Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It’s an important attribute of one’s personality. All people are entitled to autonomy over their sexual expression. Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalized.”
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“It is a historical moment for us. We are proud of our justice system for seeing the need to safeguard the rights of the L.G.B.T. community,” said Matlhogonolo Samsam, spokesperson for LGBT , a gay rights group in Botswana.
The law, which has been in place since 1965, is enshrined under section 164 of Botswana’s penal code and holds that “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” is punishable with a maximum sentence of seven years.
Section 167, similarly prohibitive of gay sex, stipulates that “acts of gross indecency” – whether in public or private – is a punishable offense, with up to two years maximum prison sentence.
But Mokgweetsi Masisi, Botswana’s newly elected president, showed solidarity for the LGBT community in late 2018 after he hinted that gay rights activists have the right to be protected.
“Many people of same-sex relationships in this country have been violated and have suffered in silence for fear of being discriminated against. Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected,” he had said.
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