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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, March 11, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 10
Gay activist sues Botswana over anti-Gay law
Section One
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Gay activist sues Botswana over anti-Gay law

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Caine Youngman, an openly Gay Botswana man, is suing his country over section 164 of its penal code, outlawing same-sex relations, which the law calls 'carnal knowledge against the order of nature.'

In his suit, Youngman asks the Botswana High Court to declare section 164 unconstitutional, null and void, and without legal effect.

He also seeks a declaration that section 164 violates the Botswana constitution by preventing persons from freely associating with people of their own choice, and from giving expression to their sexual orientation.

According to the Botswana Gazette newspaper, Youngman, 29, says in his court filing that he has never been able to freely express his sexuality because of the law.

'In order to do so I have to cross the border to South Africa where my sexuality is recognized and protected by law,' Youngman says.

He says he hates to cross the border constantly as he suffers financially and endures the inconvenience of constant travel.

'Sometimes I fear for my safety in South Africa, in fact I was nearly hijacked before, many times I feel like a criminal when I enjoy my sexuality and I suffer prejudice in the communities when I openly express my sexuality,' he adds.

Youngman also says the Botswana government is prejudiced against LGBT citizens.

He cites the government's refusal to register the Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) organization, of which Youngman is a founding member.

'Furthermore, prospects of registration in the future are slim because the minister of labor and home affairs is on record as saying his office would have difficulties in registering LEGABIBO and decriminalizing homosexuality,' Youngman says in his court filing.

Youngman says that section 164 of Botswana's penal code violates that country's constitution.

'The constitution of Botswana under section 3(a) provides for the protection of everyone's right to 'life, liberty, and security of the person and the protection of the law' whatever his/her 'race, place of origin, political [affiliation], & creed, or sex,' he notes.

Youngman says the law criminalizing same-sex relations is detrimental to public health because it pushes HIV/AIDS patients into hiding and makes interventions extremely difficult.

Ironically, Botswana's Parliament recently passed legislation prohibiting workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

'It will be preposterous to argue that our Constitution does not confer protection to a class that is protected by a [statute],' Youngman said.

Botswana residents convicted of same-sex relations may be fined and may be sentenced to seven years in prison.

Like many former British possessions in Africa, Botswana's anti-Gay laws date from the colonial period and duplicate language found in British law of the time.

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