Govt ordered to register society for same sex

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The High Court has ordered the Government of Botswana to register and recognise the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO).

In a landmark judgment at Gaborone High Court on Friday, Justice Terrence Rannowane declared that the 20 applicants were entitled to assemble and associate under the name and style of LEGABIBO. 

The judge said the organisation was entitled to be registered as a society. 

"In a democratic society such as ours freedom of association, assembly and expression are important values duly protected by our Constitution. The enjoyment of such rights can only be limited where such limitation is reasonably justified in a democracy. It is also not a crime to be a homosexual," said Justice Rannowane. 

He said the objectives of LEGABIBO include carrying out political lobbying for equal rights and decriminalisation of same sex relations. He added that lobbying for legislative reforms is not per se a crime. 

"Refusal to register LEGABIBO was not reasonably justifiable under the Constitution. It violated the applicants' rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly as enshrined under Sections 3, 12 and 13 of the Constitution of Botswana," said the judge.

He said the decision of the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs to refuse the registration of LEGABIBO was in contravention of the Constitution as it denies the individuals equal protection of the law. 

After the judgment, one of the applicants and LEGABIBO coordinator, Caine Youngman, told press conference that, "We are overjoyed at the outcome of the case. Lesbians, gays and bisexuals have long strived to be able to form an organisation, which can support them and be their voice on matters that affect them. It has been a long and arduous journey towards recognition and we are relieved that the court has protected our rights". 

Earlier this year, 20 applicants filed a case at the Gaborone High Court asking for a review the decision by the Director of Civil and National Registration and the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs to refuse to register the organisation, LEGABIBO.

Former High Court Judge and renowned human rights lawyer Unity Dow represented the applicants in this case that was financially supported by the Southern Africa Litigation Centre.

Once registered, LEGABIBO aims to provide an opportunity for lesbians, gays and bisexuals to form part of an association which will provide them with information on human rights and advocate for their rights, particularly the right to access health services.

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