BOTSWANA: High Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality

Botswana legalizes homosexuality, striking down colonial-era laws

Jubilant activists, some of whom were holding the rainbow flag synonymous with the LGBT movement, cheered the unanimous decision as it was announced in the packed courtroom.

The Botswana-based non-governmental group LEGABIBO, which supported the anonymous petitioner in the case, has said such laws "infringe on basic human dignity". When the judges said the right to privacy includes the right to choose a partner, "it hit home", he said. "It is an important attribute of one's personality".

Thus, Botswana becomes the 19th country on the continent to decriminalize homosexuality. In several countries, gay people face life imprisonment or the death penalty.

Botswana's High Court ruled on Tuesday to decriminalise same-sex relations, making it the latest African nation to do so. While seldom enforced in Botswana, the laws carried the possibility of up to a seven-year jail sentence.

"This is a landmark decision that should free lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Botswana from the range of discriminatory sanctions and practices arising from these highly problematic provisions in the Penal Code", High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

"It is a day to celebrate pride, compassion and love", UNAIDS executive director Gunilla Carlsson said in a statement after Tuesday's ruling.

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Rights groups say many laws punishing homosexuality date from the colonial area. "What compelling public interest is there necessitating such a law?" he said.

Register to advertise your products & services on our classifieds website Digger.co.ke and enjoy one month subscription free of charge and 3 free ads on the Standard newspaper. "I think it will be a great disappointment if we lose this".

It also contrasts with Kenya's recent ruling against campaigners seeking to overturn laws on gay sex, the BBC reported.

At the Botswana high court hearing in Gaborone in March, lawyers for the applicant said public opinion on same-sex relationships had evolved and employment laws now outlaw discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

"Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected", the president said at a December gathering. Other countries, such as Mozambique and the Seychelles, have simply erased mention of homosexuality from their penal codes during the rewriting process that has accompanied constitutional reform.

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