A High Court in Botswana has ruled to scrap anti-gay laws that threatened offenders with a jail sentence of up to seven years.
The court has therefore, decriminalised consensual same sex conduct in Botswana.
“Denying the applicant the right to sexual intercourse in the only way natural to him even though it is done to all is in our view discriminatory…. Any discrimination to the minority in a society is a discrimination to all,” the court said.
“Discrimination has no place in this world, all humans are born equal.”
Homosexual acts were outlawed in Botswana, a country that is one of Arica’s most stable, democratic nations under the country’s penal code of 1965.
Botswana could decriminalize gay sex in a landmark case that is getting attention from all over Africa. Last month Kenya’s high court declined to cancel laws criminalizing homosexuality, continuing to uphold its own anti-homosexuality laws, dealing a tough hand to the country’s gay community that rippled across the continent where homophobia is common.
Gay rights organizations in Kenya were hoping the ruling meant the country would follow in the footsteps of African countries like Angola, or the likes of India by ending decade old laws which decriminalize gay sex.
Neela Ghoshal, a specialist in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender law at the Human Rights Watch group said: “After an effort by activists to decriminalize same-sex relations through Kenya’s High Court met a bitter defeat last month, all eyes are on Botswana.
“A positive ruling would give hope to an embattled but resilient African LGBT rights movement.”It would also demonstrate that Botswana takes seriously its commitments to equality and non-discrimination.” Twenty-eight out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws penalizing same-sex relationship.” said Ghoshal.
In March this year, lawyers presented a statement from the applicant at the Botswana high court hearing. The laws “limit me to interact with others who identify in the same way for fear of imprisonment.”We are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality but to be tolerant.” said the applicant identified only by the initials LM.
The state argued that the society in Botswana was not ready to change its attitude towards homosexuality.
However, on the contrary, Botswana with a population of around 2 million people has shown signs of increasing tolerance of sexual orientation in recent years.
Activists had launched a legal battle after the Home Affairs Ministry rejected an application to register Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) organization; this as the country’s appeal court ruled that the government was wrong for refusing to register the organization.
Last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi addressed a gender-based gathering and said that there are “many people of same-sex relationships in this country who have been violated and have also suffered in silence”.
“Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected,” Masisi said.
Botswana, in southern Africa, is famed for its abundant wildlife and its diamond mines, being one of the countries most affected by HIV in the world with a 22.8 percent of adult infection rate, despite providing the free universal antiretroviral treatment.
Koketso Ramorei is a journalist and news editor of SADC News with years of experience in a number of genres including sports, politics and community reporting. He has worked for a numerous publications including The Citizen Newspaper and is a former editor of a Johannesburg-based off-campus publication called The Waldorfian Times.