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Botswana decriminalises homosexuality

Signal of change / Botswana decriminalises homosexuality

By Jennifer Revell / 12 Jun 2019

On 11 June 2019 a momentous ruling in the history of Botswana saw the High Court strike down laws criminalising same-sex relations, describing them as unconstitutional.

The laws, made in 1965, punished same-sex relations with up to seven years in prison. The abolishment of them has been awaited by many, including President Mokgweetsi Masisis who is said to have backed the ruling.

The judge handling the case, Michael Elburu said, “Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalised.”

Decriminalization efforts have been in the public eye since 2016 when the High Court ordered the Government to register Botswana's main LGBT organisation, LEGABIBO, and in 2017 it ruled that transgender people have a constitutional right to change their legal gender. These rulings have seen the LGBT community become more visible and accepted among Botswana's population.

However, there is more work to do; same-sex relationships are illegal in more than 70 countries, and almost half of these are in Africa where employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is prevalent. In Sudan, as well as parts of Nigeria and Somalia, it is punishable by death.


So what?

This news has been life-changing for many and could point towards the beginning of building a more tolerant society across West Africa. Recent years have seen other parts of Africa reject laws concerning same-sex relations however movements towards a more tolerant society is still an uphill battle.

In times of crisis, such as the climate emergency we are facing now, divided societies have historically suffered more - with the most marginalised hit the hardest. If the global society can become more accepting and equal, we may both be better able to protect vulnerable people from the impacts of climate change, and have more potential to unite efforts towards climate action.



What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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