The Botswana Court of Appeal on Wednesday ruled [judgment, PDF] that the Home Affairs ministry’s refusal to register a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights group was unconstitutional as it violated the right to freedom of association. The Botswana High Court had previously ruled in 2014 [JURIST report] that the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) [advocacy website] could formally register their organization under the Botswana Societies Act. A representative of the Home Affairs ministry argued that registration of the group may encourage members to break anti-homosexuality laws in the country, but the court found [News24 report] that, “[t]hat concern or reason for refusal was irrational on the evidence before us[.]” The decision was applauded [press release] as a “groundbreaking” achievement for LGBT rights in Botswana.
Recent court rulings in Botswana, Kenya and Zambia illustrate significant progress [JURIST op-ed] in human rights in Africa and in LGBT rights in particular. The Kenya High Court handed down a similar judgment [text] to that of the Botswana High Court in April when three judges rejected subjective moral convictions and asserted fundamental human rights and the rule of law: “No matter how strongly held moral and religious beliefs may be, they cannot be a basis for limiting rights.” In May, the Zambian High Court upheld the acquittal [text, PDF] of a human rights activist, Paul Kasonkomona, and distinguished between soliciting someone to engage in same-sex sexual acts, a criminal offense in Zambia, and advocating for people’s rights.