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Historic ruling in Botswana: Gay sex is illegal but gay rights group must be allowed

Historic ruling in Botswana: Gay sex is illegal but gay rights group must be allowed

A gay and lesbian group has won the right to exist in a country where it is illegal to be gay today (14 November).

Botswana’s High Court ruled in the landmark legal case the government had acted unconstitutionally when they blocked the group, Legabibo (Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana), from registering.

‘Lesbians, gays and bisexuals have long strived to be able to form an organisation which can support them and be their voice on matters that affect them,’ the group’s Caine Youngman told reporters.

‘It has been a long and arduous journey towards recognition and we are relieved that the court has protected our rights.’

Botswana’s Penal Code bans homosexual acts, or ‘offences against morality’, with up to seven years in prison.

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which often handles human rights cases across the region, said the ruling could have bigger implications.

‘The judgment emphasises the importance of the rights to freedom of expressions, association and assembly in a democracy,’ said SALC’s Anneke Meerkotter in a statement.

‘Importantly, the judgment emphasises that it is not a crime to be homosexual or attracted to someone of the same sex. The court finding is important not just for activists in Botswana but throughout Africa.’