Africa: Independent judiciaries can defend rights

Pro-LGBTQ legislation needs upholding, particularly in an era of conservative repression, writes Graeme Reid.

The World Today Updated 1 June 2023 Published 2 June 2023 2 minute READ

Graeme Reid

Director, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights Program, Human Rights Watch

In sub-Saharan Africa, countries with strong independent judiciaries have tended to fare better when it comes to upholding LGBTQ rights.

At the same time, politicians in some countries have enacted extreme laws that go beyond prohibiting sexual practices to curtailing the expression of LGBTQ identities. Across the continent, politicians continue to harness animosity towards sexual and gender minorities for political gain.

In 2019, the Botswana High Court decriminalized same-sex conduct between consenting adults. In doing so, Botswana joined neighbouring South Africa, where courts struck down a sodomy law as unconstitutional in 1998, and Lesotho, which dropped a prohibition on gay sex in its revised penal code in 2012, as did Angola in 2021 and Mozambique in 2015. Following the Botswana judgment, Monica Geingos, Namibia’s first lady, called for the repeal of Namibia’s dormant sodomy law.

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