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The LGBTQ community in Botswana is celebrating after the Court of Appeal upheld a ruling decriminalising same-sex relationships. Since it cannot be appealed any further, it has become settled law.

As per media reports, the court affirmed a 2019 ruling by Botswana's High Court, effectively striking down two sections of the country's penal code.

“Those sections have outlived their usefulness, and serve only to incentivize law enforcement agents to become keyhole peepers and intruders into the private space of citizens,” ruled Court of Appeal President Ian Kirby.

In Botswana, engaging in gay sex was punishable by up to seven years in prison prior to the 2019 High Court ruling.

The government of the country had appealed the ruling from 2019, claiming that attitudes toward homosexuality had not changed. However, the Court of Appeal, which has the final say in such cases, upheld the previous ruling.

The criminalization of consensual same-sex activities, according to Judge President Ian Kirby, violated the Constitution and the rights of lesbians, gay people, bisexuals, and transgender people to dignity, liberty, privacy, and equality.

The court found that gays and lesbians have a right to dignity, privacy, and all civil liberties enshrined in the constitution of Botswana.

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"Many other countries have recognised that right too, as have international instruments, of which Botswana is a party. Such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," asserted the court of appeal.

Activists for LGBTQ+ rights were ecstatic.

"This will forever change Botswana's landscape of democracy, human rights, and equality." Finally, the state will have no say in what two consenting adults do in their private lives," Sethunya Mosime, chair of Botswana's Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals, said.

 “Botswana is, without a doubt, a true democracy."

According to Caine Youngman, the group's head of policy and legal advocacy, the ruling may set a useful precedent for other African countries, many of which still criminalise gay sex.

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