Botswana Has Officially Decriminalized Homosexuality
The High Court Judges rightfully asked, "What compelling public interest is there necessitating such a law? There is no victim."
Botswana's High Court has officially decriminalized homosexuality in the Southern African country. According to the BBC, after hearing the case of a student who appeared in court along with LGBT advocacy group LEGABIBO, Sections 164 and 167 of the country's Penal Code have been found to be unconstitutional.
The LGBT community and its allies have been rallying for the repeal of several sections in the Penal Codes of various African countries. Just last month, Kenya's High court made the disappointing decision to keep Section 162 of its Penal Code and uphold the criminal status of homosexuality.
Whilst these laws do not explicitly criminalize homosexuality itself, they do outlaw any acts of sexual intimacy between same-sex individuals which effectively amounts to the criminalization of homosexuality as a whole. Under Botswana's now past law, a law that's been in place since 1965, a person could be sentenced to up to seven years in prison for "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature".
After a postponement of the judgement in March this year, today, Judges Tafa, Leburu and Dube came to the unanimous decision to do away with Sections 164 and 167. They said that, "Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It's an important attribute of one's personality. All people are entitled to autonomy over their sexual expression." Judge Leburu also added that, "Public opinion in cases like this is relevant but not decisive. This is about fundamental rights more than the public's view."
This is a just and deserved victory for the LGBT community. Furthermore, it also represents the active dismantling of colonial-era laws which really have no place in any African country.