By Andrew M Potts
The former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, has urged his country to decriminalise homosexuality.
Mogae made the comments during a meeting of Botswana’s National AIDS Council.
“I would not want us to persecute sexual minorities, not even sex workers,” Mogae said. “It is not something we like, but I do not think police [should] harass them.”
Mogae was referring to a recent report by the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) which stated that discrimination against homosexuals was a barrier to the fight against AIDS in the country.
The call was echoed in an editorial in The Botswana Gazette the following day. The newspaper also praised health minister John Seakgosing’s call for condoms to be made available to prisoners.
“We live in the era of HIV and AIDS and we cannot afford to bury our heads in the sand ostrich-fashion and pretend that homosexual sex does not exist, or take place in prisons,” the paper said.
Under Section 164 of Botswana’s criminal code, “any person who has carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature [or] permits any other person to have carnal knowledge of him or her against the order of nature is guilty of an offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years”.
Mogae was president of Botswana from 1998 to 2008.