17 June 2019
GENEVA – The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria welcomed a landmark ruling by the High Court of Botswana to remove legal provisions that have led to discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
The Global Fund strongly supports all efforts to promote and protect human rights and gender equality, and is committed to removing legal and other barriers to health services. Taking action to reduce discrimination and stigma is an essential part of ending the epidemics of HIV, TB and malaria.
“We stand together with the community leaders, civil society organizations and all supporters of human rights who contributed to this legal breakthrough,” said Peter Sands, Executive Director of the Global Fund. “Botswana is showing great leadership, and this is an important milestone. Together, we can remove human rights-related barriers to accessing health services across Africa.”
Activists and community leaders in Botswana highlighted the human rights challenges posed by outdated laws that led to increased stigma, discrimination and violence against LGBT people. Among other things, criminalizing sexual relations can stop people from accessing and using HIV prevention, testing and treatment services, and increases risk of acquiring HIV.
Botswana’s High Court ruling this month declared unconstitutional legal provisions that criminalized same-sex sexual relations, a legacy of anti-homosexuality laws established in the colonial era. In a unanimous decision, the court found that Botswana’s “sodomy laws” violated privacy, were discriminatory and served no public interest.
“When a decision like this is made, it creates a platform for discussion in other countries – a springboard for change in the region,” said Nana Gleeson of the Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS. Now the real work starts, she said, to translate the change in the law into change on the ground.
Gleeson said that Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo), used expert legal advocacy to make strategic interventions that helped lead to this court decision, and that evidence from key population programming made a significant difference.
The Global Fund joins partners to address human rights- and gender-related barriers to health and to respond to the needs of key and vulnerable populations everywhere.