Botswana High Court decriminalises homosexuality

Botswana's High Court unanimously votes to decriminalize homosexuality in historic decision for African LGBT+ rights.

Botswana activists hold Pride flag with the word

In a unanimous decision, the High Court in Botswana has ruled penal codes that criminalized gay sex are unconstitutional.

Offenders of the previous penal code could serve up to seven years in prison for engaging in anal or oral sex between the same sex, although this punishment was sparsely used.

The decision effectively decriminalises homosexuality in Botswana, which is one of Africa’s most stable democratic nations with a population of just over two million. The decision was reached on June 11th after a one-day hearing.

Justice Michael Leburu, according to CNN,  powerfully noted that “societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity,” connecting the decision to larger societal issues.

He also went on to say “any discrimination against a member of society is discrimination against all.”

The historic ruling will have a far-reaching impact in the African country, significantly in the destigmatization of medical services related to treatment and prevention of HIV.

The anti-gay laws have existed in Botswana since its British colonial past, but acceptance has largely increased in the country in recent years.

On Twitter, a user shared a scene of total joy in the courtroom:

Activist Kat Kai Kol-Kes used the hashtag #Repeal164 to garner support for the historic decision before the June 11th date.

Another user highlighted that the court’s decision effectively pronounced that: “homosexuality is not unAfrican.”

Another user could only express gratitude for the historic moment:

The ruling departs from Kenya’s recent decision to uphold laws that punish homosexuality after the hearing was long delayed.

Although this decision marks a positive step for the rights of LGBT+ Africans, there is still much work to do globally. According to ILGA’s 2019 state-sponsored homophobia report, 70 UN member states – almost half of which are in Africa –still criminalise same-sex relations between two consenting adults.

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