In Botswana, trans folk can get their ID cards fixed

LGBT rights activists celebrate last fall's court ruling that trans people have a right to have their ID card match their gender identity. (Photo courtesy of Legabibo)
LGBT rights activists celebrate last fall’s court ruling that trans people have a right to have their ID card match their gender identity. (Photo courtesy of Legabibo)

The government of Botswana has accepted a court ruling in favor of allowing its trans citizens to change the gender label on their national ID cards so it aligns with their gender identity. So far, a trans man and a trans woman have had their ID cards corrected.

The Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which fought for the court decision, issued this press release:

Botswana Registrar Changes Transgender Man’s Identity Document From Female to Male

The Registrar of National Registration of Botswana has issued a transgender man a new identity document that correctly reflects his male gender identity.

Justice Geoffrey Nthomiwa (Photo courtesy of the Sunday Standard)
Justice Geoffrey Nthomiwa (Photo courtesy of the Sunday Standard)

Previously, the High Court of Botswana in a case of ND v Attorney General of Botswana and others, per Justice [Godfrey] Nthomiwa, handed down a judgment in which the Court ordered the Registrar to change ND’s gender marker on the identity document from female to male.

The High Court acknowledged with concern the ongoing distress and discomfort experienced by the applicant when he is required to explain intimate details of his life to strangers whenever he seeks to access routine services simply because his identity document does not match his expressed gender or gender identity. The High Court observed that this amounts to an invasion of his right to privacy and “that arbitrary interference or embarrassment and the intrusion of privacy faced by the applicant may be avoided or minimised by the State by allowing him to change the gender marker on his identity document.”

“I feel that a heavy burden has been lifted off my shoulders” says the applicant. “Now I can enjoy the rights and privileges that other Batswana have the chance to enjoy without the fear of discrimination and victimisation. This is justice. I am happy.”

Lawyer Tashwill Esterhuizen, head of the LGBTI and Sex workers Rights Programme at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. (Photo courtesy of SALC)
Lawyer Tashwill Esterhuizen, head of the LGBTI and Sex workers Rights Programme at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre. (Photo courtesy of SALC)

“We are delighted that justice has finally been served” says Tashwill Esterhuizen, LGBTI Programme Lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC). “This is a significant step towards protecting the dignity of transgender persons. The Botswana High Court has set an example for other courts in the region on the important role the courts can and should play in protecting and promoting human rights of all persons, including marginalised groups.”

This week, the Registrar of National Registration of Botswana will also change the identity document of transgender activist Ricki Kgositau, who has successfully brought a similar case on the legal recognition of her gender identity.

SALC has provided technical and legal support to both these cases.

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Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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