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Botswana appeals ruling in favor of LGBTI rights group

A logo of LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana)
A logo of LeGaBiBo (Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana)

The Botswana government is appealing a November 2014 court ruling that instructed it to  register the LGBTI rights organization LeGaBiBo (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana).

LeGaBiBo vowed to oppose the government’s appeal. It is currently consulting with attorneys about what steps to take next.

LeGaBiBo coordinator Annah Mmolai-Chalmers said Jan. 21 that the group was disappointed by the government’s decision to appeal in an attempt to overthrown a decision that LeGaBiBo had considered to be a major breakthrough.

In November, LeGaBiBo coordinator Caine Youngman, one of 20 applicants in the case, said, “This is a great victory for LGBTI people in Botswana. We have come one step closer to the full equality and justice that we seek.”

Members of LeGaBiBo have been seeking official recognition for 10 years. In their most recent attempt, they submitted an application for registration on Feb. 16, 2012. It 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.”

However, in November 2014,  Justice Terence Rannowane of the Botswana High Court ruled that the freedoms of association, assembly, and expression are important values of society, and that the “enjoyment of such rights can only be limited where such limitation is reasonably justifiable in a democracy.”

He added, “The objects of LeGaBiBo as reflected in the societies’ constitution are all ex facie lawful. They include carrying out political lobbying for equal rights and decriminalization of same-sex relationships.”

In Botswana, at least on paper, same-sex intimacy is punishable by seven years in prison.  But the country also prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

 

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. After his retirement from paid newspaper work in 2011, he launched Erasing 76 Crimes and helped with the Spirit of 76 campaign that assembled a multi-national team of 26 LGBTI rights activists to advocate for change during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., in July 2012. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, including the Erasing 76 Crimes news site and the African Human Rights Media Network. Contact him via Twitter @76crimes or by email at info@76crimes.com. Mailing address: 21 Marseille, Laguna Niguel CA 92677 USA.

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