GENEVA (11 June 2019) – 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.
The High Court unanimously found sections of the Penal Code that criminalize same-sex relations to be unconstitutional and a violation of human rights including privacy, equality, liberty and dignity.
"This is a landmark decision that should free lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Botswana from the range of discriminatory sanctions and practices arising from these highly problematic provisions in the Penal Code," the High Commissioner said.
"Punishing people based on their sexual orientation has a deeply negative impact that goes far beyond the risk of arrest and imprisonment. Criminalization contributes to stigma and gives free rein to discrimination more generally, leading to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, in some cases, transgender people being denied health care, education, employment and housing," she said.
Bachelet paid tribute to the important role of an independent and impartial judiciary in addressing injustice. "I congratulate Botswana on this landmark decision and applaud LGBT organisations in Botswana and their allies for their courage and vision. I encourage them to continue their work to ensure full social and legal equality for all people in Botswana," she said.
This decision builds on previous positive judgments by the High Court and Court of Appeal in Botswana, which have affirmed that LGBT people form part of the rich diversity of any nation and are fully entitled to constitutional protection of their dignity, privacy and equal protection before the law.
Botswana is the ninth country over the past five years to have decriminalized consensual, same sex relationships. Similar decisions have been made by courts and/or lawmakers in Angola, Belize, India, Mozambique, Nauru, Palau, the Seychelles, and Trinidad and Tobago.