Gaborone (Botswana) (AFP)
Botswana’s Court of Appeal on Tuesday began hearing an attempt by the government to overturn a landmark ruling that decriminalized homosexuality.
The country’s High Court in 2019 ruled in favor of activists seeking to overturn prison sentences for same-sex relationships, declaring them unconstitutional.
The judgment has been hailed internationally as a major victory for gay rights in conservative Botswana.
But the government wants the decision overturned because it believes the courts have no jurisdiction to decriminalize homosexuality.
“The court is not in a position to draw such a conclusion,” said Sidney Pilane, appearing for the government.
“It’s a matter of politics. This can only be assessed by parliament. ”
Pilane bluntly told the court in the capital Gaborone that “if gay rights were unconstitutional in the past, they remain so today.”
Under the 1965 penal code of the southern African country, homosexuality was punishable by up to seven years in prison.
But on June 11, 2019, High Court Judge Michael Elburu declared that “the time has come to decriminalize the same private sexuality.”
Botswana is one of a handful of countries in Africa, where social codes are often conservative, to have decriminalized homosexuality.
The others are Lesotho, Mozambique, Angola and Seychelles.
South Africa is the only country on the African continent to allow same-sex marriage, which it legalized in 2006.
The Court of Appeal is expected to render a decision in a few weeks after the hearing closes.
© 2021 AFP