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Activists decry Botswana’s appeal against law legalizing same-sex relations

Activists decry Botswana’s appeal against law legalizing same-sex relations

LGBTI advocates outside Botswana's High Court | Photo: Twitter/SALC

LGBTI activists have decried an attempt from Botswana’s attorney general to appeal a vital High Court order that legalized same-sex relations.

In June, dozens of queer rights activists packed the courts and cheered when the ruling was first read out.

But just over a month later, many are now expressing their exhaustion that the battle is in no way over.

What’s happened?

The appeal by Botswana’s government is looking into penal code sections 164 and 165. The two colonial-era laws jailed those charged for male-on-male sex for up to seven years.

While authorities rarely enforced the punishment, many human and LGBTI rights group slammed the legislation.

Botswanan musician Motswafere Sithole is one of the country’s few openly gay public figures.

‘My heart was saddened by that, I felt mortified,’ he told VOA Zimbabwe.

‘We were moving forward; we were making progress, but now it is like we are two steps back.’

In addition, executive director of Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) Cindy Kelemi, denounced the direction of Botswana’s government.

‘It’s really, really disappointing,’ she told the local news network.

‘It basically means the government affirms the institutionalized stigma that is based on policy and laws that basically discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation.’

Appealing the law is ‘incomprehensible’

Moreover, Neela Ghoushal at Human Rights Watch told Gay Star News about her sadness at the attorney general’s move.

‘Botswana’s High Court ruling decriminalizing same-sex conduct is one of the most elegant, compelling court decisions I’ve read, and the government is putting itself on the wrong side of history by challenging it,’ she wrote.

‘It’s incomprehensible that President Masisi, after declaring loud and clear that people in same-sex relationships should have their rights protected, would now make moves to strip them of those very rights.

‘Botswana should reconsider its human rights obligations and retract its decision to appeal.’

‘We can be free as human beings.’

Nevertheless, Sithole remained optimistic in the meantime.

‘It means so much for the LGBT community, because now we can be free to love who we want to love, we can be free to express ourselves and be free at the workplace.

‘We can be free as human beings.’

Botswana’s Court of Appeals has not yet set a date for the hearing case.

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