A massive crowd marched through Botswana’s capital Gaborone on Saturday to protest against proposed legislation aimed at decriminalizing same-sex relations.
Religious groups led the demonstrators as they marched across the city of Gaborone, expressing their opposition to a bill seeking to align with a 2019 court ruling in favor of LGBTQ rights.
During the demonstration, some protestors held signs that read “we say no homosexuality” and “protect our children”.
Delivering a petition to the parliament, pastor Pulafela Mabiletswane Siele of the Evangelical Fellowships of Botswana, a Christian group, expressed opposition to the bill, stating that it “would open floodgates of immorality and abomination.”
The protest in Gaborone is part of a broader pushback against LGBTQ rights in southern Africa.
Last week, thousands of people marched in Malawi ahead of a constitutional court case challenging the country’s ban on same-sex relationships.
Namibian lawmakers have passed legislation to ban same-sex marriage and penalize its supporters, in response to a Supreme Court ruling that permitted the recognition of some unions contracted abroad.
In 2019, Botswana’s High Court ruled in favor of campaigners seeking to abolish jail sentences for same-sex relationships, deeming the punishment unconstitutional.
Gay sex had been prohibited since 1965 in the socially conservative African nation, with offenders facing the possibility of up to seven years in prison.
The bill, set to be discussed in the coming weeks, seeks to remove the related provisions from the penal code.
Opposition lawmaker Wynter Mmolotsi, who received the petition on behalf of parliament, assured that MPs would take into consideration the views of the church.
Earlier this month, Botswana’s LGBTQ rights group LEGABIBO expressed concerns that religion and faith are being weaponized to distort the message of the church, which is meant to encourage love and restoration.