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Same-sex sexual behavior:

Botswana decriminalises
two forms of sexual behavior.

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Botswana is a country in Africa that shares its southern border with South Africa. According to the BBC:

"Botswana, one of Africa's most stable countries, is the continent's longest continuous multi-party democracy. It is relatively free of corruption and has a good human rights record.

Sparsely populated, Botswana protects some of Africa's largest areas of wilderness. Safari-based tourism -- tightly-controlled and often upmarket -- is an important source of income.

Botswana is the world's largest producer of diamonds and the trade has transformed it into a middle-income nation.

According to Global Security.org:

  • 63% of adults are Christian -- mostly members of the Anglican, Methodist, Roman Catholic,and United Congregational Church of Southern Africa.
  • 27% state that their religion is "God."
  • 2% are members of Badimo
  • 1% follow other religions, including Bahai, Hinduism, Islam. 4

However, some 65% of adults follow two belief systems -- typically Christianity and traditonal African beliefs.

There are 49 soub-Saharan cocuntries in Africa. Twenty eight of them still have laws in place that penalize same-sex activities.

During mid-2018, President Mokgweetsi Masisi said:

"There are also many people of same sex relationships in this country, who have been violated and have also suffered in silence for fear of being discriminated. Just like other citizens, they deserve to have their rights protected." 3

The country created its current anti-LGBT laws in 1965. They were influenced by prevous British laws which were in force during the country's colonial past. The British laws had sections inspired by King Henry VIII’s Anti-Buggery Act of 1533.

An anonymous gay man -- identified only as "LM," launched the lawsuit in 2018. He wrote: "The laws limit me to interact with others who identify in the same way for fear of imprisonment." ... We are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality, but to be tolerant."

The High Court in Botswana issued a unanimous ruling to change Section 164 of the country's penal code. It decrimnalizes oral and anal sex by heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual persons. These activities had previously been referred to as: "carnal knowledge against the order of nature," Previously, this was considered a crime that could result in a seven year jail sentence. 2

The Judges' ruling stated, in part:

"Any discrimination against a member of society is discrimination against all.

Judge Lebaru read the ruling, saying:

"A democratic nation is one that embraces tolerance, diversity, and open mindedness. ... Societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity. ... [It is] not in the public interest ... [to criminalise same-sex sexual conduct]. There is no victim. What compelling public interest is there necessitating such a law?. Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalised." 2

The constitution allows government restrictions on religious freedom in the interest of "national defense, public safety, public order, public morality, or public health when the restrictions are deemed reasonably justifiable in a democratic society." However, it has never applied such restrictions. 3

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A major benefit from the Court ruling will be that the LGB community will be able to freely access medical services. The HIV infection rate is one of the highest in the world: 22.8%.

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LGBT groups celebrate:

Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, the CEO of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) said in a press release:

"It has taken a long time for our community to be where it is. This incredibly life-changing decision -- although it does not right all the wrongs done to individual members of the LGBT community -- is a step towards restoring our dignity as human beings. The decision has several implications for the LGBTIQ community. Not only does it provide legal affirmation and recognition of the rights of LGBTIQ persons, but it allows an important space for addressing public health issues more efficiently and effectively. We can finally start building a more tolerant society. The real work starts now."

Human Rights Watch posted a statement on Instagram, saying:

"Congratulations to all the activists that worked so hard for so long to repeal [Section} 164 and stand up for LGBT rights in Botswana."

OutRight Action International also posted a statement on Instagram by an unidentified transgender artist, saying:

"I am proud that this has happened in my lifetime, and look forward to educating B to fully understand what this means to current and future generation of LGBTIQ people and their families. Justice will always shine brighter in the light than hate." 5

References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Botswana country profile," BBC News, 2018-APR-03, at: https://www.bbc.com/
  2. "Botswana decriminalises gay sex," Pink News, 2019-JUN-11. at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/
  3. Emma Powys Maurice, "All eyes on Botswana’ as country considers scrapping anti-gay laws," 2019-JUN-11. at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2019/06/10/all-eyes-botswana-scrapping-anti-gay-laws/
  4. "Botswana - Religion," Global Security, at: https://www.globalsecurity.org/
  5. Lily Wakefield, "News: Botswana celebrates historic decriminalisation of gay sex," Pink News, 2019-JUN-11, at: https://www.pinknews.co.uk/

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How you may have arrived here:

Home > "Hot" religious topics > Homosexuality & Bisexuality > LGBT laws > here

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Copyright © 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2019-JUN-11
Author: B.A. Robinson
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