Botswana decriminalises homosexuality: Here's what you need to know

13 June 2019 - 06:51 By Cebelihle Bhengu
LGBTQI+ activists have welcomed Botswana's High Court decision to decriminalise homosexuality.
LGBTQI+ activists have welcomed Botswana's High Court decision to decriminalise homosexuality.
Image: AFP PHOTO/Luis ROBAYO

Botswana is the latest African country to embrace diversity and tolerance after a high court ruling to scrap laws which criminalise homosexuality. The decision has received praise from LGBTQI+ activists in and out of the country. 

Here's everything you need to know:

Background

An anonymous gay applicant,  identified as LM, is behind the decriminalisation of homosexuality in country. LM challenged section 164 of the country's penal code ["unnatural offenses"], under which homosexuality was punishable with up to seven years imprisonment. 

The applicant asked for tolerance for those who are homosexual.

"We are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality, but to be tolerant." The Guardian reported in March that the applicant's lawyers told the high court that the public's opinion on homosexuality had changed, and that employment laws embraced sexual diversity. 

Judgment

Three judges  voted unanimously for the decriminalisation of homosexuality, on grounds that it is unconstitutional. Judge Michael Leburu, who delivered the judgment, said it was important to embrace people's sexual identities and acknowledged that homosexuality is neither a choice or a fashion statement. 

"Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalised. Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement, but an important attribute in one's personality."

Response

UNAIDS executive director Gunilla Carlsson said: "This is a historic ruling for LGBT people in Botswana. It restores privacy, respect and dignity to the country's LGBT people." 

Sonke Gender Justice on Tuesday  said the ruling has "served as a reminder that homosexuality is not 'un-African' but rather a necessary component of any democracy committed to the rule of law, equality and human rights."

People continue to take to Twitter to celebrate the judgment.


X