Botswana’s Huge Win For LGBTQ Rights In Africa
By Kelsey Marie
Homosexuality is currently illegal in more than 70 countries, with most of those being in Africa. Until today, same-sex relationships in Botswana were a crime which resulted in up to seven years in prison.
In March, a 21-year-old student of the University of Botswana, Letsweletse Motshidiemang brought the case to court to have same-sex relationships decriminalized. His argument was that homosexuality is more accepted in society now and that the times have simply changed.
When the case appeared in court, the ruling was postponed because the lawyer for the state wanted evidence that conservative Botswana had also changed with society.
The trial was postponed until today when the High Court declared an overturn of the colonial-era law which criminalized sexuality.
The rights group, Amnesty International described this decision by the High Court as “marking an exciting new era of acceptance, which should inspire other African countries to follow suit.”
Muleya Mwananyada, the deputy director for the Southern Africa division of Amnesty International says, “with this ruling, Botswana has said ‘no’ to intolerance and hate and ‘yes’ to hope and equality for all people.”
Botswana is the latest country in the African diaspora to decriminalize same-sex relationships, following Kenya’s decision to uphold its law criminalizing same-sex relationships a month prior.
The LGBTQ community in Botswana will feel a great impact with this ruling; having easier access to health and legal services. This also means freedom for many to live their lives in the open without worrying about being criminalized.
This latest ruling isn’t the only strides the LGBTQ community has made in Botswana: in 2010, the Employment Act made it illegal for companies to terminate employees based on their sexual orientation. Also, during a speech in December 2018, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said LGBTQ citizens deserve their rights to be protected.
Although homosexuality is still seen as a taboo in many parts of Botswana, this ruling is a huge win for the LGBTQ community in both Botswana and the African continent.
This ruling adds to the joy of Pride Month for many.
Kelsey-Marie is an NYC girl who currently lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.