Gov’t to appeal 2019 ruling decriminalising homosexuality

LEGABIBO is unfazed


The government is set to appeal a landmark High Court ruling that decriminalises homosexuality in Botswana. The Court of Appeal has set 12 October 2021 for the appeal case.

The High Court ruling overturned a colonial-era law that punished gay sex by up to seven years in prison, declaring it unconstitutional. The case, which had attracted international attention, was seen as a landmark decision for gay rights in Botswana and put the country among a select few African countries that uphold LGBTIQ rights.

Amnesty International had welcomed the decision as “marking an exciting new era of acceptance, which should inspire other African countries to follow suit”.

However, a month later the government of announced its intention to appeal the decision. “I have thoroughly read the 132-page-long judgment and am of the view that the High Court erred in arriving at this conclusion,” Attorney General Abraham Keetshabe said in a statement in July 2019.

With the appeal date now set, human rights advocacy group Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) is not fazed and says it looks forward to finally putting the matter to rest. “We are excited and happy that the date for the appeal has finally been set,” the CEO of LEGABIBO, Thato Moruti, has said.

“The LGBTIQ community is very excited and looks forward to putting the matter to rest. This is a great step in the right direction to shift and change systems, (and to) reform laws and policies to ensure that the LGBTIQ communities not only enjoy their right to be human but also enjoy legal protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

According to LEGABIBO, the 2019 judgment has already led to positive change in Botswana. The organization cites an Afrobarometer survey conducted shortly after the decision which they say recorded a 10 percentage point gain in tolerant attitudes towards LGBTIQ persons.

Botswana’s Five-Year Plan for Removing Human Rights-Related Barriers to Accessing HIV and Health Services (2020-2025) also noted that “the recent overturning of laws criminalizing same-sex sex removes a significant human rights barrier for gay men, men who have sex with men and other LGBT persons.”

LEGABIBO is represented by Tshiamo Rantao and supported by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.