Botswana gives chance to argue for LGBT rights

A gay rights activist waves a rainbow flag (Reuters)

Botswana’s High Court will on Thursday hear a case challenging the criminalisation of gay sex, offering campaigners a chance to argue for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights (LGBT).

LGBT rights still remain a highly contentious issue in Africa with more than half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa having anti-homosexuality laws. According to Neela Ghoshal, a Human Rights Watch specialist in LGBT rights ‘28 out of 49 countries have laws penalising same-sex relationships.’

Botswana’s Penal Code outlaws ‘carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature’ and those convicted face jail sentences of up to seven years. Although Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi signaled support for same-sex relations saying LGBT citizens deserved to have their rights protected, no measures have been taken to put this into law.

The particular case to be mentioned in the High Court was filed by a gay man in May 2018 who argued that the criminilsation of same-sex sexual activity limits the ability of LGBT people to access basic social services, increases risks of discrimination and infringes of their basic human dignity.

The LGBT community in Botswana is hopeful that the case will bring about much needed change in the rights of for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, chief executive officer of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) says that “Botswana is a diverse society and the constitution protects the freedoms and dignity of all persons in Botswana, regardless of whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex,”

This case is one of the few that has seen Africans from the LGBT community pushing for equal rights. In 2017, a transgender woman won a legal battle against Botswana’s government to be recognised as a female.

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