Botswana bars gay people from ‘immoral’ conduct

Lt-Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama, an ethnic Xhosa, was born in 1947 Botswana’s president, Lt-Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama, said that bans against homosexuality were “unacceptable” and “inhumane”, as Botswana joins a long list…

Botswana bars gay people from 'immoral' conduct

Lt-Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama, an ethnic Xhosa, was born in 1947

Botswana’s president, Lt-Gen Seretse Khama Ian Khama, said that bans against homosexuality were “unacceptable” and “inhumane”, as Botswana joins a long list of African countries banning homosexuality.

“In the late 1970s the then British colonial administration, after considerable debate, passed the Sexual Offences Act of 1976, which allowed sanctions against homosexual activity. I did not agree with this in principle because of what I saw as weak and undesirable provisions but it was accepted and enforced by our then Government.”

The Botswana government later amended that Act “in a manner where any form of sexual activity between two consenting adults, without the involvement of a third party, could only be punished with imprisonment of up to seven years”.

Despite the amended law Khama, an ethnic Xhosa, added that “normative imperatives and self-interest are thus predominate, and hence, all rights of the individual are subordinate to common societal best interests”.

He said “banning of homosexuality is a clear case of infringing the freedoms of the citizens in a matter that is clearly not deemed by the majority of the people of Botswana to be a public good or even in the public interest.”

Khama’s comments come as his country prepares to conduct a plebiscite on 1 December which will decide whether the country should continue to follow the laws of section 377 of the Constitution – “an offence against any person with carnal knowledge against the order of nature” – or to endorse “the decriminalisation of homosexuality, bisexual activity and lesbianism”.

The Commonwealth country has been advised to follow the constitutional amendment process by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and other civil society organisations.

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