High court judges in Botswana have ruled that laws criminalising same-sex relations are unconstitutional and should be struck down, in a major victory for gay rights campaigners in Africa.
Jubilant activists in the packed courtroom cheered the unanimous decision, which came a month after a setback in Kenya when a court rejected an attempt to repeal similar colonial-era laws.
“Human dignity is harmed when minority groups are marginalised,” Justice Michael Leburu said as he delivered the judgment. “Sexual orientation is not a fashion statement. It is an important attribute of one’s personality.”
The ruling was welcomed enthusiastically by campaigners across the African continent, where homosexuality is illegal in most countries. In several, gay people face life imprisonment or the death penalty.
Botswana is regarded as one of Africa’s most stable and democratic nations but homosexuality was outlawed under the country’s penal code of 1965.