Botswana High Court decriminalises homosexuality
In a major victory for gay rights campaigners in Africa, Botswana’s High Court on Tuesday overruled a colonial-era law that criminalised homosexuality in the country.
Under Section 164 of Botswana’s Penal Code, homosexuality was an offence that carried a sentence of up to seven years imprisonment, until today, when a three-judge bench unanimously voted to revoke the laws, which, they said, conflicted with Botswana’s Constitution, reported The New York Times.
“Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalised,” said Judge Michael Leburu before delivering the judgement. “Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It is an important attribute of one’s personality.”
Hailing the judgement, Matlhogonolo Samsam, a spokesperson for gay rights group ‘Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana’, said, “It is a historical moment for us. We are proud of our justice system for seeing the need to safeguard the rights of the LGBT community.”
The case was brought to the court by an anonymous gay applicant, identified in court papers as L.M. His written statement to the court had read, “We are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality but to be tolerant.”
Homosexuality had been illegal in Botswana since the late 1800s when the territory was under British rule.
It is pertinent to mention that the decision has come a month after Kenya’s High Court upheld its laws criminalising homosexuality. Homophobia is widely entrenched on the African continent, with homosexuality being outlawed in more than 30 countries.
In India, homosexuality was decriminalised last year following a historic judgement by the Supreme Court, where it overturned a 157-year-old colonial-era law, known as Section 377.(ANI)