Botswana Scraps Gay Sex Laws In Big Victory For LGBTQ Rights In Africa

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Botswana’s High Court has overturned a colonial-era law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations in a landmark victory for Africa’s LGBTQ movements.

The court in the southern African country unanimously ruled on Tuesday that the legislation was discriminatory, unconstitutional and against the public interest.
“A democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness,” Justice Michael Leburu said, noting that discriminatory law not only serves as a detriment to LGBTQ people, but holds back all of society.
“Societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity,” he said.
The challenges for Africa’s LGBTQ community
The ruling comes just a month after Kenya’s high court upheld its laws criminalizing homosexuality.
Under section 164 of Botswana’s Penal Code, “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature,” was an offense that carried a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment. Section 167 made “acts of gross indecency” — whether in public or private — a punishable offense, with up to two years in prison.
The case was brought to court in March by Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a 21-year-old student at the University of Botswana, who argued that society had changed and that homosexuality was more widely accepted, local media reported.
The packed court erupted in cheers of joy upon hearing the verdict.
While homophobic attitudes continue to prevail in parts of the country, Botswana’s LGBTQ activists and supporters have marked some victories for the movement in recent years. The 2010 Employment Act made it illegal for employers to terminate contracts on the basis of sexual orientation, in 2014 the High Court ruled that the government had to allow Legabibo to register as an organization, and two landmark rulings in October and December 2017 laid the foundation for trans people to more easily change their official gender on identity documents.
Following a brutal attack on a transgender woman last November, Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi signaled his support for LGBTI people, saying “there are many people in same sex relationships in this country who have been violated and have also suffered in silence for fear of being discriminated. […] Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected.”
Botswana

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