Botswana court allows LGBT rights group to formally register News
Botswana court allows LGBT rights group to formally register

[JURIST] The Botswana High Court on Friday ruled [judgment, PDF] that members of a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights group could formally register their organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] announced [press release]. The ruling was made in response to a petition filed by Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) [advocacy website] to register under the Botswana Societies Act. The Bostwana registrar of societies rejected LEGABIBO’s request to register in March 2012. Registration is required before an organization may receive equal participation in the development of national programs. “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 to registration,” said Monica Tabengwa, LGBT researcher at HRW. “The Botswana High Court decision is a milestone in the fight for LGBT people’s right to equality under the law.” Members of LEGABIBO applied for registration in February 2012. Their application was rejected the next month on grounds that the Botswana constitution “does not recognize homosexuals,” and that the application would violate the Botswana Societies Act. The act 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.” In upholding the application Justice Terence Rannowane wrote in his ruling that freedoms of association, assembly and expression are important values of society and the “enjoyment of such rights can only be limited where such limitation is reasonably justifiable in a democracy.”

Roughly two-thirds [BBC report] of African nations criminalize homosexuality, according to an Amnesty International (AI) report published earlier this year. In September AI said that a draft of an anti-homosexuality bill in Chad will represent a major step backwards for human rights [JURIST report] in the country if passed into law. Earlier that month Gambia’s National Assembly passed [JURIST report] a bill that imposes imprisonment for some homosexual acts, amending the criminal code to bring life sentences for “aggravated homosexuality.” It is also similar to Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Act [text, PDF] which was struck down [JURIST report] in August. One week later Ugandan Attorney General Peter Nyomb appealed [JURIST report] the constitutional court ruling. Many see the anti-homosexuality acts as a reaction to major legislative reforms in support of same-sex marriage [JURIST backgrounder] in the US and other Western nations. Last November a Ugandan religious leader bolstered [JURIST report] the law when it was still a bill. In February of that year Ugandan MP David Bahati announced that clauses mandating the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality” would be dropped [JURIST report] from the controversial bill. In 2010 US President Barack Obama and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the US Congress in denouncing the bill [JURIST report].