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Botswana's Court of Appeals upholds ruling to decriminalise gay sex

The country's government was appealing the High Court's 2019 ruling to decriminalise homosexuality.

2021-11-29

Words: Alastair James; pictures: Pexels

A court in Botswana has upheld a decision to decriminalise homosexuality, defeating a government appeal of the ruling.

The Court of Appeal was unanimous in rejecting arguments put forward by the African country’s government that gay sex was outlawed by the penal code and that there was no evidence of a change in public opinion on that.

Ian Kirby, the Judge President of the Court of Appeal, said provisions in the Penal Code criminalising same-sex acts violated LGBTQ people's rights and had been "rendered unconstitutional by the march of time and change in circumstances."

"Botswana is a true democracy"

Reuters reports that the news was met with cheers from members of the LGBTQ community who had congregated outside the court.

Sethunya Mosime, chairperson the Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), told the news service that "This will forever change the landscape of democracy, human rights and equality in Botswana. Finally, the state will have no business in what two consenting adults do in their privacy."

Mosime added, "This case has tested Botswana democracy and independence of judiciary. We can strongly say Botswana is a true democracy." 

Pan Africa ILGA, a regional group of the advocacy group the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association, also celebrated with a tweet reading: "Botswana. It's a beautiful day. That's the tweet. That's all!"

Reuters reports that the case can't be appealed any further after being decided by the highest court.

According to the old Penal Code, someone could be jailed for up to seven years if found guilty of 'carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature'. Under Section 167, anyone found guilty of 'acts of gross indecency' could be sentenced to two years in prison.

Botswana's government announced plans to appeal a month after homosexuality was decriminalised in 2019.

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