Human rights and advocacy lobby group, LEGABIBO has expressed pleasure at government's decision to defer any decision on the homosexuality bill that was being debated in Parliament yesterday.
The decision follows Minister of Justice Machana Shamukuni's announcement during a session that he has deferred the Panel Code Amendment Bill No.29 of 2022 to allow for a rigorous examination of the constitutional issues raised with his ministry regarding the bill before it could be debated in the House.
LEGABIBO, which won a landmark case in 2021 after the apex court upheld a High Court decision on decriminalised consensual sex between same-sex partners, has indicated in a press statement that while some view the deferral of the bill debate as a setback, for movement it is a win. The group emphasised the matter should have never reached the debate stage in Parliament from the onset.
"We are now pleased that our parliamentarians are, at least for now, not under pressure from any sector or sectors of society to vote to reinstate laws which have been struck down (i.e deleted) by our courts," the release stated.
LEGABIBO has been receiving an onslaught of protests from members of the Evangelical Fellowship Botswana (EFB) who even made public demonstrations and marched against the amendment bill set to decriminalise same-sex relations. After the deferral yesterday, some people felt that government has finally bowed to the Church's pressure against the bill.
The objective of the bill was to amend Section 164(a) and (c) of the Penal Code (Cap. 08:01), which criminalises carnal knowledge between two adults against the order of nature. Section 164(a) and (c) were declared unconstitutional in the case of the Attorney General and Letsweletse Motshidiemang, Court of Appeal's Civil Appeal No. CACGB-157-19.
Now LEGABIBO indicated that they are pleased that Shamukuni has carefully listened to them and other members of the public, particularly legal academics and lawyers who are experienced in constitutional law issues. LEGABIBO said it would have been an assault on the judiciary for Parliament to debate whether or not to delete laws which have been struck down by the courts. LEGABIBO added that this does not happen as a rule of law in a country like Botswana, and the laws of Botswana, particularly the Constitution, being the supreme law, and the Revisions of Laws Act, would not authorise this act.
“Political leaders should not allow themselves to be threatened or coerced into violating the rule of law by way of votes for or against during national or other elections. "This would have been unprecedented in Botswana, and so we have to thank the Honourable Minister for listening to the voice of reason. We do not expect him to re-table the same bill in future,” LEGABIBO further revealed.
LEGABIBO pointed out that it continues to advocate for the rights and wellbeing of LGBTIQ persons and will continue to educate and sensitise Batswana on sexual and gender diversity.
“We also would like to assure all members of the LGBTIQ community, parents and our stakeholders that we are closely monitoring this story as it unfolds. We, therefore, request the community to remain calm as we engage with all concerned parties,” LEGABIBO stated.