March 2011-November 2019
It took 5 years after my first visit to Botswana to see this historic headline: “Botswana’s High Court announced its decision this morning (June 11, 2019) to decriminalise gay sex, and people are rejoicing the “life-changing” decision”.
The decision was inevitable. Almost six years ago the high court had advanced equal rights in the country with another historic ruling: a law suit filed against the government that claimed an existing law criminalizing homosexual ‘behavior’ was unconstitutional. The court ruled in favor of the gay rights organization LeGaBiBo (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana). It ruled that the LGBT organization had the right to register as a legal organization. (It did not rule then on the legality of gay sex.)
By coincidence I arrived in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana on that historic day (Nov 14, 2014). The suit was jointly filed by LeGaBiBo and Bonela (Botswana Network on Ethics, Laws and HIV/AIDS) who had been planning the submission for months. At a press conference the director described how the law unfairly discriminates against a certain portion of citizens and is therefore is against the constitution.
In their joint press release they stated: “Homosexuality has been in African culture since time immemorial; it is actually homophobia that is ‘un-African’. it was the European colonialists and preachers who imported the hatred against same sex behaviour. They brought the criminal categorization of that behavior. The acts were indigenous. The name and the crime were imported.”
Six months later Legabibo withdrew their suit in order to better prepare it. Then in 2014 they brought it back and successfully won their case against the government–the first of its kind. They are now a legally registered social group. See this report.