On Tuesday 11 June 2019, the Botswana High Court in a landmark ruling declared Sections 164 and 167 of the Penal Code unconstitutional. These Sections outlawed same sex sexual relations involving consenting adults. In its unanimous decision, the High Court made this important remark: ‘Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It’s an important attribute of one’s personality. All people are entitled to autonomy over their sexual expression. Public opinion in cases like this is relevant but not decisive. This is about fundamental rights more than the public’s view.’
All credit goes to the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), the Botswana Network on Ethics, Laws and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), the LGBTIQ community and like-minded allies in Botswana. This is a victory not only for the LGBTIQ community in Botswana, but for every human being across the African continent. This ruling fosters the fact that a democratic society is one that embraces diversity and open-mindedness and thus upholds human rights. It is a strong measure at addressing the stigma, discrimination and violence that vulnerable and marginalised people experience within communities. This ruling could not have come at a better time than the month of June when we celebrate ‘Pride Month.’ It is time to celebrate the lives, identities and influence of the LGBTIQ community. It is also a time to bolster awareness-raising efforts and bring heightened attention to the human rights and well-being issues faced by the LGBTIQ community.
SAfAIDS strongly supports and welcomes this historic win; and joins the rest of Africa and the world in celebrating such jurisdictional activism and wisdom. This is a giant step which directly contributes to the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10 on reducing inequalities and SGD 16 on the need to build and strengthen the existence of peace, justice and inclusive societies. It is a ruling whose implementation will certainly influence Botswana’s progress in meeting the global UNAIDS HIV fast track 90%-90%-90% and 95%-95%-95% treatment targets whose foundation is ZERO DISCRIMINATION. The High Court in Botswana was spot on when it further noted that, ‘A democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness.’
SAfAIDS as a regional organisation promoting effective and ethical development responses to SRH rights, and their intersection with gender justice and human rights, urges Member States, civil society organisations and development partners across the SADC region and Africa to embrace this ruling as a living testimony that justice and inclusivity is possible and fundamentally necessary in our region. The Botswana High Court ruling is an example of what is possible and must transpire to ensure that LGBTIQ rights are honoured across Africa.
For more information, contact:
SAfAIDS Regional Office
17 Beveridge Road, Avondale, Harare
Tel: 263 4 336 193-5
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