A Federal High Court in Botswana has overturned a decades-long ruling on same sex marriage to make the country join the likes of South Africa, Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde in recognizing gay people as deserving of love and respect.
The laws of Botswana have been hostile to people of same sex relations since the end of the colonial era. According to section 164 of the country’s penal code, homosexuality is a crime punishable by between two and seven years in prison.
Justice Michael Lebutu announced the ruling on Tuesday. He said that discrimination has no place in Botswana
His statement reads ”A democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity, and open-mindedness. Therefore, Continuing to criminalize sexuality and gender identity holds societies back from reaching their full potential.”
He added that “Societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity.”
The ruling comes after Letsweletse Motshidiemang, a 21-year old homosexual at the university of Botswana challenged the law by bringing the case to court in march.
“I am in a sexually intimate relationship with a man. 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,” he said at the time.
“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,” he said.
The LGBT community in the Southern African nation reacted to the court ruling with cheers and jubilation.
Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, coordinator of the LGBTQ rights group Legabibo said, “This judgement can make a massive change for our lives. This is what excites me the most. The judgement means so much. The court has upheld our dignity, our privacy, and our liberty … It means freedom.”
Meanwhile, dozens have been arrested in a Uganda gay-friendly bar in the centre of the capital, Kampala.
Authorities say narcotics were seized during the Sunday night operation. Members of Uganda’s LGBT community patronise at the bar which hosts a popular party on Sunday.
Uganda remains one of the many African countries whose laws considers homosexuality and same sex marriage a serious offense.
Though the Ugandan government recently denied that it plans to introduce new legislation targeting the LGBT community. Several members of parliament have said they will table a bill making homosexuality punishable by death.