On 11 June 2019, a full bench of the High Court of Botswana ruled to remove a relic of its colonial past by striking down section 164(a) and (c), and section 167 of the penal code, which criminalize same-sex relations, or “carnal knowledge against the order of nature”, and prescribe a prison sentence of up to seven years for those found guilty.
The court unanimously ruled that the provisions are discriminatory, against public interest and unconstitutional.
In particular, the judges stated that “a democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness”, as well as highlighting that discrimination serves to hold back not only LGBTIQ people, but society as a whole by stating that “societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity.”
With this decision, the court continued its record of recognizing the human rights of LGBTIQ people in the country. In 2014 the High Court ruled that the government had to allow the registration of LEGABIBO, an LGBTIQ organization. And in 2017, in two separate cases – one concerning a trans man, and the other a trans woman – the High Court ruled that the refusal of the National Registration to change the gender marker of trans people violates their rights to dignity, privacy, freedom of expression, equal protection under the law.
With this ruling Botswana joins Angola, Mozambique, India, Trinidad and Tobago and other countries that also recently struck down similar colonial-era laws. However, there are still numerous countries that maintain this discriminatory colonial-era relic, including places such as Singapore, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Kenya, where the High Court ruled last month to maintain the barbaric law.