Group challenges criminalisation of same-sex relationships in Botswana

Botswana's High Court is expected on Thursday to hear a case in which the constitutionality of the provisions that criminalise same-sex sexual acts between consenting persons will be challenged.

In a statement, a human rights advocacy group, Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), said that it had submitted factual evidence that sought to demonstrate that continued criminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual acts perpetuated stigma, intolerance, homophobia and violence against members of the LGBT community.

"LEGABIBO will argue that decriminalisation of same-sex sexual acts would not only greatly enhance public health - by assisting with treatment, care and education in the fight against HIV in particular - but it will also affirm basic human rights and the diversity of the Botswana nation," read part of the statement.

This will not be the first time the country's vulnerable LGBT community has sought the courts to decide on rights issues affecting its members.

According to Human Rights Watch, the country's High Court last year ruled that a transgender man should be allowed to hold official documents that reflect his gender identity.

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The rights group described the judgment as a "huge victory for transgender people in Botswana, who face considerable challenges when their gender identity is not reflected in official papers".

Botswana is touted as one of Africa's most democratic nations, yet homosexuality is outlawed under the penal code of 1965, and punishable by prison term of up to seven years.

Homosexuality is a crime in most African countries.

South Africa is the only country on the continent whose constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and recognises same-sex marriages.

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