Landmark case challenges the ban on homosexuality in Botswana

Last week saw the start of a landmark legal case in the Botswana High Court that aims to challenge the ban on homosexuality in this Southern African country. 

According to Mambaonline a gay man, who has only been identified as LM, is calling for the court to declare sections of the Penal Code that outlaw consensual same-sex sexual conduct between adults unconstitutional. The applicant was supported by the organisation Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (Legabibo). 

Under sections 164 and 167 of Botswana’s penal code, those found guilty of having “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and engaging in “indecent practices between persons”, can face up to seven years in jail.

In his opening statement read out to the court, LM argued that the laws limit him “to interact with others who identify in the same way for fear of imprisonment.” He also continued to say that they “are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality, but to be tolerant [towards those who identify as LGBTI].”

LM’s legal team also set out to show that the anti-LGBTI provisions of the Penal Code “unconstitutionally discriminate against LGBTI people” including exposing them to “high levels of violence”, as well as “restricting their access to HIV services”. 

In turn, Botswana’s Attorney General made various arguments against repealing the laws. Among those were a suggestion that homosexuality “was a Western fueled practice”, alongside an argument that the case was “not about homosexuals but about protecting the morals of society.” 

Mambaonline reports that the  Attorney General also questioned the credibility of Legabibo, due to the fact that the organisation receives international funding.