A High Court in Botswana has ruled to scrap anti-gay laws that threatened offenders with a jail sentence of up to seven years.
With these powerful words, a Botswana's High Court on Tuesday emphatically struck down section 164 of the country's penal code that had considered same-sex relations a punishable offence.
"This is a historic ruling for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Botswana", Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS' executive director, said in a statement. Other nations, including Tanzania and Uganda, have moved to tighten rules against homosexuality. President Mokgweetsi Masisi previous year told a meeting on gender-based violence that there are "many people of same sex relationships in this country who have been violated and have also suffered in silence".
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday warmly welcomed the decision by the High Court of Botswana to decriminalize consensual same-sex relations between adults by striking down relevant provisions of the country's Penal Code. In 1861, British Victorians drafted Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which made homosexuality a punishable crime and was "a model law in more ways than one", according to a 2008 Human Rights Watch report.
In delivering judgment, the court however ruled that, because "the sexual orientation of a person is their right to privacy ... societal norms of heteronormativity can not overrule the right to privacy".
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"We are not looking for people to agree with homosexuality but to be tolerant", he wrote in his deposition.
The court in the capital Gaborone overturned the two sections, in force since 1964, which criminalized "carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature" and "unnatural offences", respectively, Efe news reported.
The judge added: "The state can not be sheriff in people's bedrooms". "The real work starts now", she said.
Earlier this year, the southern African nation of Angola decriminalized same-sex activity and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The three-judge bench while giving the ruling said that sexual orientation is not a fashion statement and is an important attribute of one's personality.
Other African countries have also removed their anti-gay laws in recent years, including the Seychelles, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe and Lesotho.