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:
— Ryan Brown (@ryanlenorabrown) June 11, 2019
Activist Kat Kai Kol-Kes used the hashtag #Repeal164 to garner support for the historic decision before the June 11th date.
.@legabiboadvo We are in this together! June, 11 is a day we add another page to Botswana's #LGBTHistory @WashBlade @HRC @OutRightIntl @OtherFoundation #berekamosadi #queerBW pic.twitter.com/MYxxR6NlX3
— K K Kol-Kes (@kkolkes) June 7, 2019
Another user highlighted that the court’s decision effectively pronounced that: “homosexuality is not unAfrican.”
The High Court in Botswana has uplifted human rights and decriminalised consensual same-sex sex. In a unanimous ruling, the Court held that the laws are discriminatory and unconstitutional.
The Court said homosexuality is not unAfican. This is major victory. #Repeal164
— James Lorde (@Mr_Mokgoroane) June 11, 2019
Another user could only express gratitude for the historic moment:
Same sex relationships DECRIMINALIZED in my beautiful BOTSWANA!!!!!!
Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!!! https://t.co/mYSXJleewT
— marang setshwaelo (@marangdream) June 11, 2019
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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