Botswana’s population is 2.3 million (midyear 2020 estimate). According to a 2021 census, 79% of citizens are Christian, 15% unaffiliated with any religion, and 4% adhere to the Badimo indigenous religion, other religious groups form less than one percent.

Botswana is one of Africa’s more democratic nations, reports also show freedom of religion or belief faces challenges in Botswana. The Constitution protects the freedom of expression however reports indicate limitations on freedom of expression and press. Fines are issued for those who insult public officials, MPs or the president.

‘Blasphemy’ laws

Botswana criminalizes insult to religion under Articles 136, 138 and 140 of the Penal Code. Such offenses are punishable by one year in prison. However, no cases have been found by researchers.

Article 136: Insult to religion of any class. Any person who destroys, damages or defiles any place of worship or any object [that] is held sacred by any class of persons with the intention of thereby insulting the religion of any class of persons or with the knowledge that any class of persons is likely to consider such destruction, damage or defilement as an insult to their religion, is guilty of an offense.

Article 138: Trespassing on burial places. Every person who, with the intention of wounding the feelings of any person or of insulting the religion of any person or with the knowledge that the feelings of any person are likely to be wounded, or that the religion of any person is likely to be insulted thereby, commits any trespass in any place of worship or in any place of sepulture, or in any place set apart for the performance of funeral rites or as a depository for the remains of the dead, or offers any indignity to any human corpse, or causes disturbance to any persons assembled for the purpose of funeral ceremonies, is guilty of an offense.

Article 140: Writing or uttering words with intent to wound religious feelings. Any person who, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any other person, writes any word or any person who, with the like intention, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of any other person or makes any gesture or places any object in the sight of any other person, is guilty of an offense and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year.