Botswana court upholds ruling decriminalising same-sex relationships
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Cape Town - The Botswana court of appeal’s decision to uphold a ruling that decriminalised same-sex relationships is a win for LGTBQIA+ rights and sets a good example for the judiciary in other African countries, rights activists have said.
Botswana’s government had appealed a 2019 ruling which found that criminalising homosexuality was unconstitutional.
The 2019 ruling had been hailed as a major victory for gay rights campaigners on the continent, following an unsuccessful attempt in Kenya to repeal colonial-era laws criminalising gay sex, according to The Guardian.
According to reports, a bench of five Botswana judges unanimously ruled on Monday that criminalising same-sex relationships was a violation of the constitutional rights of LGBTQ+ individuals to dignity, liberty, privacy and equality.
Judge Ian Kirby, who read out the ruling, said gay citizens had long lived in "constant fear of discovery or arrest" when expressing "love for their partners“, Africanews.com reported.
"This sometimes led to depression, suicidal behaviour, alcoholism or substance abuse," Kirby reportedly said.
In 2019 Botswana's high court declared that prison sentences for those conducting same-sex relationships were unconstitutional.
Botswana is one of only a handful of countries in Africa to have decriminalised homosexuality, the others being Lesotho, Angola, Mozambique, the Seychelles and South Africa.
South Africa is the sole nation on the continent to allow same-sex marriage, which it legalised in 2006.
Homosexuality had been banned since 1965 in conservative Botswana, where offenders could face up to seven years in prison.