Botswana could decriminalise gay sex on Tuesday when its high court is due to rule in a landmark case being watched across Africa after Kenya recently upheld its own anti-homosexuality laws.
Homosexual acts are outlawed in Botswana — one of Africa’s most stable, democratic nations — under the country’s penal code of 1965.
An unnamed applicant is challenging two sections of the code that threaten offenders with a jail sentence of up to seven years.
Last month, Kenya’s high court refused to scrap laws criminalising homosexuality, dealing a blow to the country’s gay community that rippled across a continent where homophobia is rife.
Gay rights organisations had hoped Kenya would follow in the footsteps of African nations like Angola, or those further afield like India, and end decades-old laws which criminalise gay sex.
“After an effort by activists to decriminalise same-sex relations through Kenya’s High Court met a bitter defeat last month, all eyes are on Botswana,” Neela Ghoshal, a specialist in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender law at the Human Rights Watch group, told AFP.
“A positive ruling would give hope to an embattled but resilient African LGBT rights movement.
“It would also demonstrate that Botswana takes seriously its commitments to equality and non-discrimination.”
Twenty-eight out of 49 countries in sub-Saharan Africa have laws penalising same-sex relationships, according to Ghoshal.
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