Botswana’s supreme court just overturned the country’s ban on homosexuality.
The Botswanan High Court ruled unanimously today that the country’s sodomy law is discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Section 164 of Botswana’s Penal Code bans “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature,” and section 167 bans “acts of gross indecency.” These laws have been used to criminally prosecute people for being gay.
The challenge to the laws was brought by a gay student, Letsweletse Motshidiemang, 21, who argued that the law was discriminatory.
“By virtue of one or more of these provisions of the law, I am prohibited from expressing the greatest emotion of love through the act of enjoying sexual intercourse with another consenting adult male that I am sexually attracted to and who is also sexually attracted to me, as consenting adults,” Motshidiemang wrote in an affidavit.
He said that he feels accepted by his peers, a feeling undermined by how he could be sent to prison for being gay.
“I am in a sexually intimate relationship with a man,” he wrote. “I have no doubt that this will be the case for the rest of my life. My friends, roommates at the University of Botswana have accepted me, even at the University of Botswana I feel free and accepted.”
“A democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness,” wrote Justice Michael Leburu in the court’s ruling.
“Societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity.”
The court rejected the government’s argument that sex is for the purpose of procreation and said that the state cannot regulate what two consenting adults do in private.
The packed courtroom erupted in cheers when the decision was announced.
— Q. Allan Brocka (@allanbrocka) June 11, 2019
— Keikantse E. Phele (@ke_phele) June 11, 2019
Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was banned in 2010 in Botswana, even while the government continued to criminalize sex between two men.