Same-sex relationships remain decriminalized in Botswana thanks to a ruling by the country’s Court of Appeal.
On Monday, the Court of Appeal affirmed a 2019 ruling by the High Court which had decriminalized same-sex relationships in the south African country, Reuters reports. The government had previously filed an appeal in the 2019 decision, sending the case up to the Court of Appeal.
The five appeals’ court judges voted unanimously to uphold the ruling. In the statement reported by Reuters, the court’s President, Ian Kirby, said that the criminalization of same-sex relationships violated the constitutional rights of LGBTQ+ individuals, referring to sections of the country’s criminalize code that made homosexuality punishable by up to seven years in prison.
He added, “Those sections have outlived their usefulness, and serve only to [incentivize] law enforcement agents to become key-hole peepers and intruders into the private space of citizens,” Reuters reports.
Homosexuality had previously been criminalized in Botswana in the 19th century, when the country was still under British colonial rule. The law had been challenged by an anonymous applicant, the New York Times reported in 2019, leading to the High Court’s unanimous decision to repeal the sections of the penal code that outlawed homosexuality.
“For me to have this judgment in my lifetime is an important milestone, a relief and an indication that people’s civil liberties are taken seriously,” said Caine Youngman, Head of Policy and Legal Advocacy with Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) in a statement posted on the advocacy group’s Twitter platform. “I hope [the] Parliament of Botswana will learn from the judiciary and take the necessary steps to institute [legalization] that protects the LGBTI community from any kind of violence.”
Reuters reports that government officials were not available to comment on the Court’s decision.