The Botswana High Court allows registration of an LGBTI rights organization, finding denial violates Constitutional rights of equal protection, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association.
On November 14, 2014 the Botswana High Court ruled that the government cannot deny registration of the organization LEGABIBO, an acronym for Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana. The human rights organization filed a case against the Department of Labor and Home Affairs after the department denied its registration. The High Court confirmed the government’s refusal to register the organization was a violation of its members rights to equal protection, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association.
LEGABIBO applied for registration on February 16, 2012 but received a letter denying registration on grounds that (1) Botswana’s constitution does not recognize homosexuals and (2) the application would violate Section 7(2)(a) of the Societies Act which among other things allowed refusal for organizations “incompatible with peace welfare or good order in Botswana.” The High Court denied both of the governments grounds for refusing registration.
First, the court affirmed that the government’s allegation that the Constitution does not recognize homosexuals, is not correct. There is no provision in the Botswana Constitution stating it does not recognize homosexuals. The penal code criminalizes same sex sexual conduct, but even this statute does not criminalize an individual being attracted to someone of the same sex.
Second, the Court analyzed whether the constitution of LEGABIBO offends the Societies Act by being incompatible with peace welfare or good order in Botswana. In his analysis the judges finds the organization’s objectives harmless, going on to state that they promote good values such as self-reliance, non-discrimination, health, and education. The court also reaffirmed the lawfulness of advocacy in democratic countries for subjects such as abortion or in this case equal rights and decriminalization of same-sex relationships. The judge stated that in a democratic society asking for a law to be changed is not a crime, nor is it incompatible with peace, welfare and good order.
The Court concludes that fundamental constitutional rights and freedoms are granted to all persons and cannot be denied on the basis of sexual orientation. As such, members of the organization are entitled to the protections of the Constitution.
Source – Gender Justice Uncovered Awards