14th November 2014: The Botswana High Court has ruled that the Department of Labour and Home Affairs must register the LGB rights organisation Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO). The case was brought by 20 people who argued that the government’s refusal to register the organisation violated their constitutional rights to freedom of association, freedom of expression, and equal protection under the law. They were represented by lawyers Dow and Associates and SRT grantee the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.
The applicants applied to register LEGABIBO under the Societies Act in February 2012. In March 2012, the Department of Civil and National Registration rejected the application on the basis that the Botswana Constitution “does not recognise homosexuals” and that the organisation’s objectives are contrary to section 7(2) of the Societies Act. LEGABIBO appealed to the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs, but the appeal was rejected. They then took the case to the High Court.
Anneke Meerkotter of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre said, “The judgment emphasises the importance of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in a democracy. The judgment will benefit not only the prospective members of LEGABIBO, but any minority group which seeks to uphold its right to freedom of association in Botswana in the future. Importantly, the judgment emphasises that it is not a crime to be homosexual or attracted to someone of the same sex. The court finding is important not just for activists in Botswana but throughout Africa.”
Caine Youngman, LEGABIBO Coordinator, said, “We are overjoyed at the outcome of the case. Lesbians, gays and bisexuals have long strived to be able to form an organisation which can support them and be their voice on matters that affect them.”
Full press release from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre:
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