“Fully embraced”? Bostwana’s queer struggles since decriminalisation.


In November 2021, Botswana’s Court of Appeal upheld a landmark 2019 ruling that had decriminalised gay sex. Before the original verdict, same-sex sexual activity had been punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment. In the wake of 2019 decision, the government filed an appeal, reportedly to appease conservative voters. “It was a political card that they were playing,” says Bradley Fortuin, a human rights activist. “It was for the government and the ruling party to go back to their constituents and say ‘we tried’.” When the appeal failed last year, President Mokgweetsi Masisi changed tack. In a speech to Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), the organisation that had spearheaded the legal challenge, he said: “The members of the LEGABIBO community can derive comfort in the expectation of being fully able to benefit in all government services that they had been hitherto unable to access…Know for the record that you are fully embraced. Fear not. My job is to protect you and everybody else.”

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