Botswana’s Court of Appeal has upheld a ruling that decriminalized same-sex relations, and it cannot be appealed further, so it becomes settled law.
The court Monday affirmed a 2019 ruling by the High Court of Botswana, effectively striking down two sections of the country’s penal code, Reuters reports.
“Those sections have outlived their usefulness, and serve only to incentivize law enforcement agents to become keyhole peepers and intruders into the private space of citizens,” Court of Appeal President Ian Kirby wrote.
Under the code, same-sex relations could be punished by up to seven years in prison. The code banned “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and “indecent practices between persons,” The law dated from when Botswana was a British colony, but the nation became independent in 1966.
The nation’s government had appealed the 2019 ruling, saying attitudes toward homosexuality hadn’t changed. But the Court of Appeal, which has the final word in such matters, kept the earlier ruling in place.
LGBTQ+ rights activists were pleased. “This will forever change the landscape of democracy, human rights and equality in Botswana. Finally the state will have no business in what two consenting adults do in their privacy,” Sethunya Mosime, chair of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana, said at the court building. “This case has tested Botswana democracy and independence of judiciary. We can strongly say Botswana is a true democracy.”
Caine Youngman, head of policy and legal advocacy for the group, added that the ruling may set a useful precedent for other nations in Africa, many of which still criminalize gay sex. It will “be very useful for other comrades around the continent of Africa,” he told The Guardian, adding, “I hope it will alleviate our suffering as the LGBTIQ community.”
Zia Choudhury, United Nations resident coordinator and representative of the U.N. secretary general in Botswana, praised the ruling in a tweet.