Is Botswana About to Legalize Gay Sex?

The country's colonial-era sodomy law punishes gay sex by up to seven years in prison.

The Botswana High Court will hear a case today that could legalize gay sex. The nation has so far held onto its colonial-era law making “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature” and is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

The case was filed in May of last year by a gay man identified by his initials, L.M., who is arguing that the law limits the rights of LGBTQ people to access social services, is discriminatory, and infringes on human dignity.

“These sections…limit me to interact with others who identify in the same way for fear of imprisonment,” he said in documents read by lawyer Gosego Lekgowe in the High Court in Gaborone, according to Agence France Presse.

“We are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality but to be tolerant,” said the applicant identified by their initials LM.

“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,” said Anna Mmolai-Chalmers, chief executive officer of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), Reuters reports.

The country has been moving in a more progressive direction in recent years. The LGBTQ community is protected against housing discrimination, and employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is also prohibited.

botswana president masisi
Chris Jackson/Getty Images

President Mokgweetsi Masisi (pictured above) said late last year that LGBTQ people deserve to have their rights respected, and saying they had “suffered in silence,” sparking more hope among the community, although so far there have been no new policy proposals in that direction from his administration.

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