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Botswana has decriminalised homosexuality

Breaking news

2019-06-11

Words: Steve Brown

Botswana has decriminalised homosexuality in a landmark ruling.

On Tuesday morning (June 11), the South African country’s high court ruled that Sections 164 and 167 of their Penal Code – which outlawed ‘carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature’ – was unconstitutional.

Honourable Judges Tafa, Leburu and Dube unanimously agreed that a person’s right to privacy included the right to choose a life partner and ‘fundamental private choices including those with regards to sexual conduct’.

"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," said Leburu.

The full bench ruled Sections 164 and 165 of the Penal Code were discriminatory.

Katlego K Kolanyane-Kesupile trans ARTivist from Botswana, and OutRight Action International’s Religion Fellow commented: “I'm happy to see that the courts of law in Botswana have opted to support the dignity of Batswana by removing these clauses which render people criminals merely for whom they love.

"I am proud that this has happened in my lifetime, and look forward to educating Botswana to fully understand what this means to current and future generations of LGBTIQ people and their families. Justice will always shine brighter in the light than hate.”

The country took to the court just weeks after Kenya ruled to continue criminalising homosexuality.

We heartily congratulate the Botswanan and southern African LGBT human rights defenders and lawyers who have worked tirelessly on this pivotal case. LGBT people in Botswana have had their constitutional rights confirmed today and can now be more hopeful of a future free from discrimination, harassment and violence," said Téa Braun, Director of HDT.

"This judgment, which comes less than three weeks after a deeply regressive decision on the same issue from the Kenya High Court, is legally sound, ground-breaking and courageous, and is a ray of hope for all those LGBT Africans looking to their legal systems for justice and fair treatment."