Thinking Anglicans

Anglican influence in Botswana’s decriminalisation of same-sex relationships

Earlier this month, there was surprising news from Botswana: Botswana scraps gay sex laws in big victory for LGBTQ rights in Africa.

Botswana’s High Court has overturned a colonial-era law criminalizing consensual same-sex relations in a landmark victory for Africa’s LGBTQ movements.
The court in the southern African country unanimously ruled on Tuesday that the legislation was discriminatory, unconstitutional and against the public interest.
“A democratic society is one that embraces tolerance, diversity and open-mindedness,” Justice Michael Leburu said, noting that discriminatory law not only serves as a detriment to LGBTQ people, but holds back all of society.
“Societal inclusion is central to ending poverty and fostering shared prosperity,” he said…

CNN also carried this comment article the next day: Africa is doing better on LGBTQ rights than you think.

Living Reconciliation reported on the role of Alice Mogwe in this achievement: We Believe in Human Dignity

Decriminalisation of LGBTQI people is a victory for human dignity.
The 11 June 2019 decision of the Botswana High Court, to strike down colonial laws which discriminated against LGBTIQ persons was greeted with joy by those seeking to promote human dignity.
Alice Mogwe – Anglican lay woman, Human Rights defender, and founder and Director of DITSHWANELO – the Botswana Centre for Human Rights, welcomed the ruling with joy.
‘We believe in human dignity: that all are made in the image of God’ she said. ‘This is a step on the road to dignity for LGBTIQ persons in Botswana, a great step, but still a step. It offers the hope of more to come. LGBTIQ people need to have dignity in all our communities, in their families and among all of our people. This can make it possible.’
Alice has been journeying with LGBTIQ people on their road to freedom for over 20 years. In 1998 DITSHWANELO created a project focused on the rights of LGB persons. This led to the establishment of a fledgling group called LeGaBiBo – Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo).  It was seeded and nested by DITSHWANELO.
Many human rights groups advocate for the voiceless and speak for the oppressed. Alice has long championed human dignity over human rights and her aim is to enable people to speak for themselves, not to be spoken for…

Law & Religion UK reported on the court’s decision here: Same-sex relationships in Botswana:Motshidiemang 

On 11 June, in Motshidiemang v Attorney General [2019] MAHGB-000591 16, the Botswana High Court held that the criminalisation of sexual relations between consenting adults of the same sex was unconstitutional. Tafa, Leburu and Dube JJ concluded that ss.164(a), 164(c), 165 and 167 of the Botswana Penal Code violated the constitutional rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons to dignity, liberty, privacy and equality. The Court began from the proposition that sexual relations between consenting adults in private were none of the law’s business:

“What regulatory joy and solace are derived by the law, when it proscribes and criminalises such conduct of two consenting adults, expressing and professing love to each other, within their secluded sphere, bedroom, confines and/or precinct? Is this not a question of over-regulation of human conduct and expression, which has the effect of impairing and infringing upon constitutionally ordained, promised and entrenched fundamental human rights?”…

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Nicholas Henshall
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Nicholas Henshall

Surely this is great news – that Anglicans might in some parts of the world be the active ingredient in taking forward LGBTQ + rights. It’s easy to forget, given current pathologies, that C of E clergy were instrumental in the de-criminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.

Phil Groves
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Phil Groves

It is great news. there are significant Anglicans taking forward LGBTQ+ rights in several countries – even as others are remaining quiet or actively opposing human dignity.

Andrew Godsall
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Andrew Godsall

This is indeed great news. Decriminalisation of LGBTQI people is a great victory for human dignity. I have noted in several places that I find it confusing that those who argue vehemently against more freedom in the church do not at the sane time argue for re-criminalisation. It is very much about human dignity and I greatly welcome this news.