Botswana High Court Postpones Ruling on Same-Sex Relations Case

2019

On Thursday, 14 March 2019, the Botswana High Court heard a case challenging the constitutionality of sections 164(a), 164(c) and 167 of the Botswana Penal Code. These provisions criminalize same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults in Botswana and impose a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment. A man named Letsweletse Motshidiemang filed a petition in […]

On Thursday, 14 March 2019, the Botswana High Court heard a case challenging the constitutionality of sections 164(a), 164(c) and 167 of the Botswana Penal Code. These provisions criminalize same-sex sexual conduct between consenting adults in Botswana and impose a maximum sentence of seven years imprisonment. A man named Letsweletse Motshidiemang filed a petition in May to the court arguing the laws to criminalizing homosexuality were unconstitutional.

The organization Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), supported by COC through the Bridging the Gaps program, was admitted as a friend of court in the proceedings. ‘We are delighted that the court has set a hearing date for this really important case,’ said Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, CEO of Botswana’s LGBTI group, LEGABIBO in a statement.

“Over the past three years, the Botswana courts have shown themselves to be champions of jurisprudence which acknowledges the rights of LGBT persons and their right to equal protection before the law”, says Tashwill Esterhuizen LGBT and Sex Workers Rights Programme Lawyer, at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). “Through their sound legal reasoning and constitutional jurisprudence, the Botswana courts have set an example for other courts in the region on the important role the courts can and should play in protecting and promoting human rights of all persons, including marginalized groups. The court also approved in separate cases the rights of two trans people to identify as their true gender on official documents.”

The Botswana High Court has postponed its ruling until the 11th of June, 2019. If they rule in favor of scrapping the aforementioned sections of the constitution, Botswana would join the ranks of other countries who have scrapped similar colonial-era laws, such as India. It would imply a victory for the African LGBTI movement, hopefully inspiring other governments in the continent to follow suit. A recent similar example is from Kenya, where the government also decided to postpone their ruling to May 2019.