Botswana becomes yet another African country to repeal its colonial laws against homosexuality, and recognise gay people as humans deserving of love and respect.
Several decades ago, same sex relations were taken as a serious offence by the colonial-era section 164 of Botswana’s penal code.
According to the code, same-sex relationships were “against the order of nature.” The code stated that homosexuality should be punishable by between two and seven years in prison.
In a new development, Botswana has now joined South Africa, Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, and São Tomé in decriminalizing same-sex relationship.
According to Global Citizen, Botswana’s High Court decriminalised same-sex relationships in an unanimous ruling welcomed by the LGBTQ+ community in the southern African country and beyond.
Justice Michael Lebutu announced the ruling on Tuesday, said discrimination has no place in Botswana.
“A democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity, and open-mindedness,” he said.
He added that continuing to criminalise sexuality and gender identity holds societies back from reaching their full potential, saying: “Societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity.”
The ruling by Justice Leburu comes after Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a 21-year-old student at the University of Botswana, took on the law by bringing the case to court in March.
“I am in a sexually intimate relationship with a man. I have no doubt that this will be the case for the rest of my life. My friends, roommates at the University of Botswana have accepted me, even at the University of Botswana I feel free and accepted,” he said at the time.
“By virtue of one or more of these provisions of the law, I am prohibited from expressing the greatest emotion of love through the act of enjoying sexual intercourse with another consenting adult male that I am sexually attracted to and who is also sexually attracted to me, as consenting adults,” he said.
Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, coordinator of the LGBTQ rights group Legabibo said, “This judgement can make a massive change for our lives. This is what excites me the most. The judgement means so much. The court has upheld our dignity, our privacy, and our liberty … It means freedom.”