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BOTSWANA: High Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality

BOTSWANA: High Court Decriminalizes Homosexuality

Previous rulings have partially acknowledged the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the southern African country, including their right to equal protection before the law.

The Superior Court of Gaborone today considered unconstitutional two articles of the criminal code of Botswana that criminalize consensual homosexual activities between adults, thus decriminalizing sexual relations between people of the same sex in that South African country.

"Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalised", Judge Michael Leburu said while delivering the judgement.

Botswana's High Court announced its decision this morning (June 11) to decriminalise gay sex, and people are rejoicing the "life-changing" decision.

At present 28 out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Botswana, have laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Human Rights Watch.

In 2015, a Kenyan court ruled in favour of the National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission - a non-governmental organization supporting the LGBT community - which had moved to court compel the Kenyan government to recognize it as a legal entity.

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The Guardian reports: 'Jubilant activists in the packed courtroom cheered the unanimous decision, which came a month after a setback in Kenya when a court rejected an attempt to repeal similar colonial-era laws.

"The state can not be a sheriff in people's bedrooms", Leburu said.

While rarely enforced in the southern African nation, the laws carried the possibility of up to a seven-year prison sentence.

In delivering judgment, the court however ruled that, because "the sexual orientation of a person is their right to privacy ... societal norms of heteronormativity can not overrule the right to privacy". 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 real work starts now", she said.

Judge Leburu labelled laws banning gay sex as "discriminatory" and added: "Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement".

Angola, Mozambique and the Seychelles have all scrapped anti-homosexuality laws in recent years. It also pointed out all three arms of Botswana's government have expressed the need to protect the rights of the gay community. "Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected", he had said.