Botswana’s high court approves LGTB Rights 


Gaborone, 20 Nov: The  High Court in Botswana, has granted members of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights group permission  formally register their organization.

According to information provided by Human Rights Watch, the decision was issued in response to a petition filed by Lesbian, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to register under the Botswana Societies Act. Botswana’s registrar of societies had previously rejected the group’s request to register in March 2012. “The court’s ruling is a significant victory for the LGBT community, not only in Botswana but elsewhere in Africa where LGBT groups have faced similar obstacles for  registration,” said Monica Tabengwa, LGBT researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The  High Court’s decision is a milestone in the fight for LGBT people’s right to equality under the law.”

Same-sex conduct is outlawed in 38 African countries. One of the insidious effects of these laws is that LGBT organizations are denied registration in these countries on the grounds that they will be promoting an illegal activity. This has the effect of violating LGBT people’s rights to freedom of association, assembly, and expression, Human Rights Watch said. LGBT groups in several African countries, including Kenya and Uganda, have filed legal challenges after they were denied registration.

Members of LEGABIBO had submitted an application for registration on February 16, 2012. The application was rejected on March 12, 2012, on grounds that the Botswana Constitution “does not recognize homosexuals,” and that the application would violate section 7(2)(a) of the Botswana Societies Act. That section allows the government to deny an application for registration if “it appears … that any of the objects of the society is, or is likely to be used for any unlawful purpose prejudicial to or incompatible with peace, welfare or good order in Botswana.”

According to her, Freedoms of association, assembly, and expression reflects paramount values in a democratic society. “By rejecting the refusal to grant legal status to an organization on the basis of the members’ sexual orientation, the court was protecting those rights for all in Botswana,”Tabengwa said.

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