Court dismisses Botswana government’s appeal to overturn 2019 ruling that decriminalised gay sex


A court has dismissed the Botswana government's appeal to overturn 2019 ruling that decriminalised gay sex.

A court has dismissed the Botswana government’s appeal to overturn 2019 ruling that decriminalised gay sex.

  • Victory for gays and lesbians in Botswana as Appeals Court dismisses government challenge.
  • Laws used against LGBTQ people have outlived their usefulness.
  • Judge says wide research and dialogue informed the decision.

Judges in Botswana’s court of appeal dismissed an appeal by the government to overturn a landmark ruling of 2019 that decriminalised gay sex.

The judgment was upheld by Court of Appeal President Justice Ian Kirby and endorsed by Justices Terence Rannowane and Tapologo Garekwe.

The court found that gays and lesbians have a right to dignity, privacy, and all civil liberties enshrined in the constitution of Botswana.

“Many other countries have recognised that right too, as have international instruments, of which Botswana is a party. Such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” reads part of the long judgment.

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The case was originally raised by the then university student Letsweletse Motshidiemang who argued that the government should move with the times because gays were now widely accepted in the country.

Motshidiemang’s challenge sought to decriminalise same-sex relationships that carried a seven-year jail term.

Leading the state’s appeal, Advocate Sydney Pilane argued that, “People don’t hate or dislike gays, they simply just don’t approve of what they do”, adding that it was not the court’s responsibility, but that it lay with political will in parliament to change laws.

Pilane also raised clauses in the Penal Code which Justice Kirby said, “… have outlived their usefulness”, and are not in the public interest or nature of the Batswana people. The ruling was postponed from early October to today because the president of the Court of Appeal said the matter needed wider research and debate.


Lenin Ndebele is the News24 Africa Desk journalist. The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.



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