Botswana High Court postpones ruling on decriminalizing gay sex

Will Botswana ultimately decriminalize homosexuality | Photo: Facebook/Legabibo The High Court of Botswana has decided to postpone their ruling on decriminalizing gay sex .

Judge Abednico Tafa informed the court room, packed with people, they would hand down the ruling on 11 June following a one-day hearing.

Section 164 of Botswana’s Penal Code outlaws ‘carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature’. Those convicted are liable to imprisonment up to seven years.

Last year, Letsweletse Motshidiemang, originally just known as LM, brought a case forward challenging the law in May 2018.

The court set the original date of today in December.

Gesego Lekgowe, Motshidiemang’s lawyer, argued the government should abolish the law. He made the argument that homosexuality has become more widely accepted. Therefore, a law like this is outdated and harmful.

‘When the laws were put in place… society was not ready to accept same sex relations,’ he said to the court.

The government’s lawer, Sidney Pilane, however, argued that while attitudes towards homosexuality may have changed in other parts of the world, they haven’t in Africa.

‘The law should reflect on the values of society,’ he said regarding Botswanan society. ‘As far as I know there haven’t been any changes in society toward gay people.’ Some background

Located in a landlocked country in southern Africa, Botswana has the third-highest prevalence of HIV in the world. Stigma and discrimination often deters LGBTI people from seeking tests and treatment, though.

There has been a record of same-sex relationships and activity in Botswana for centuries.

During the 18th century, the Khoikhoi people had terms both for men who were ‘sexually receptive to another man’ as well as same-sex mutual masturbation.

The Tswana people, a Bantu ethnic group who make up a large portion of Botswana’s population, also have a term for homosexuality.

Tswana chiefs, known as dikgosi, have previously stated homosexuality has always existed and shown an acceptance for it.

Similarly, the High Court ordered the government in 2016 to recognize and register an LGBTI group in the country. One year later, they also ruled transgender people have a right to legally change their gender. ‘Scared and anxious’

‘The LGBTI community and movement is having mixed feelings,’ LGBTI rights commentator, Ratanang Onkokame Mosweu, told GSN about the court decision.

‘A lot of us are scared because this issue is now in the open, and people are thinking, “What if it doesn’t go as expected, how will this affect our work and our lives?”

‘We’re anxious and excited to finally make our stand in a public space.’

Kenya also recently made a similar decision with their ruling on gay sex, postponing it until May. See also