Saturday, October 23, 2021

Botswana court reserves verdict after state appeals for gay sex

Botswana’s Court of Appeals on Tuesday reserved judgment in a case in which the state seeks to overturn a 2019 ruling that decriminalized same-sex sex. The High Court had ruled in favor of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in a landmark case, but the government is challenging the decision.

Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community will have to wait a little longer before hearing the outcome of an appeal challenging the verdict in their favor.

Court of Appeals Judge Ian Kirby said the bench needed more time to decide.

“We will reserve judgment in this matter. This is clearly an important matter that we need to thoroughly research and debate, so we’re not going to promise a decision next week as we’ve done with others [cases],” he said.

Defendants’ defense counsel Shiamo Rantao said the LGBT community is entitled to constitutional rights and privacy. He said that laws making homosexual relations a crime should be abolished.

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“It is a sacred duty of the courts to exercise them impartially and without fear or intimidation, we emphasize, any law passed by Parliament against the imperatives of the Constitution and including a customary law. To abolish any law that does not pass constitutional. Master. That will always be the case,” Rantao said.

State attorney, Sidney Pilane, however, wants the earlier ruling to be overturned. He argued, most people in Botswana did not agree with the 2019 decision.

“The Batswana respect the law and they respect the courts. But don’t assume that courts are happy when they take decisions that courts shouldn’t. Please don’t guess like that. When Batswana is calm, please don’t think they agree. And when they see that court decisions come down, don’t think they agree with those court decisions,” he said.

Workers carry a rainbow flag outside the Botswana High Court, October 12, 2021.

Bradley Fortuin, a spokesman for Botswana’s Lesbians, Lesbians and Bisexuals (LEGAGIBO), says he will continue to advocate for marginalized groups, regardless of the court’s final decision.

“This is another opportunity for Leggibo to continue doing advocacy work to ensure that there is visibility, including not only the LGBTIQ community but also other groups such as people living with HIV, people with disabilities, marginalized groups, etc. do and include. Those are often sidelined,” he said.

Prior to the June 2019 ruling, Botswana’s penal code outlawed “unnatural offences” and “obscene practices”, with those found guilty facing up to seven years in prison.

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