Same sex marriage in Africa

Botswana scraps gay sex laws in big victory for LGBTQ rights in Africa

Same sex marriage in AfricaActivist Kat Kai Kol-Kes holds a LGBTQ pride flag inside Botswana’s High Court on Tuesday, where lawmakers overturned a law that criminalized same-sex relations.

(CNN)Botswana’s High Court has overturned a colonial-era law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations in a landmark victory for Africa’s LGBTQ movements.The court in the southern African country unanimously ruled on Tuesday that the legislation was discriminatory, unconstitutional and against the public interest.”A democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness,” Justice Michael Leburu said, noting that discriminatory law not only serves as a detriment to LGBTQ people, but holds back all of society.”Societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity,” he said.

The ruling comes just a month after Kenya’s high court upheld its laws criminalizing homosexuality.Under section 164 of Botswana’s Penal Code, “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature,” was an offense that carried a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment. Section 167 made “acts of gross indecency” — whether in public or private — a punishable offense, with up to two years in prison.

The case was brought to court in March by Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a 21-year-old student at the University of Botswana, who argued that society had changed and that homosexuality was more widely accepted, local media reported.

The packed court erupted in cheers of joy upon hearing the verdict.Neela Ghoshal, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, told CNN that the ruling sets a “powerful precedent on the continent by recognizing that the criminalization of same sex conduct violates privacy rights and is blatantly discriminatory.””The High Court is right in declaring that sodomy laws belong in a museum or the archives, not in modern life,” she said.

Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, coordinator of Legabibo, a prominent LGBTQ rights group in the country, said that the verdict would have a tangible impact on LGBTQ individuals’ daily life, saying that it would help with access to health and legal services.”Before we were struggling. People have been hiding,” Mmolai-Chalmers told CNN.

“This judgement can make a massive change for our lives. This is what excites me the most. The judgement means so much… The court has upheld our dignity, our privacy, and our liberty… It means freedom,” she added.Human rights lawyer Keikantse Phele called the judgement “a welcome development,” adding that there is still “lots of work that needs to be done in terms of access to all services, spaces and development.”

Source: CNN