The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa (ARASA) has lauded the Botswana High Court for protecting the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly in Botswana after the court found on Friday, 14 November 2014 that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons in Botswana have the right to register their own organisations.
“This judgement is a tremendous victory for the protection of the rights of LGBTI people on the African continent where they face harassment, violence, extortion and other rights violations on a daily basis,” said Michaela Clayton, director of ARASA. “The social and legal environments in some countries in southern and east Africa have been increasingly repressive and LGBTI people have received very little protection from the judicial system in the past.”
In February 2012, Lesbians, Gays and Bi-sexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) applied for registration in terms of the Societies Act in Botswana. This application was rejected by the Director of the Department of Civil and National Registration on the basis that the Botswana Constitution does not recognise homosexuals and that the objectives of the organisation are contrary to section 7(2) of the Societies Act. An appeal to this decision was rejected in November 2012 by the Department of Labour and Home Affairs.
In March 2013, twenty individuals filed a case before the High Court of Botswana, arguing that the refusal of the Department of Labour and Home Affairs in Botswana to register LEGABIBO violated their constitutional rights to freedom of association, expression, and equal protection of the law.
“The decision by the Department of Labour and Home Affairs in Botswana not to register LEGABIBO was clearly unjust as this organisation, operating under the auspices of the Botswana Network of Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), already plays a pivotal role in providing much needed information and advocating for the rights of LGBTI citizens of Botswana,” added Clayton. “In the response to HIV, the ability of groups of LGBTI people to register and access funding to provide HIV and STI prevention information and services is crucial as the disproportionately high rates of HIV prevalence amongst marginalised groups such as men who have sex with men have a negative impact on the HIV prevalence in the entire country as well as public health outcomes.”
The rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, guaranteed in various international and national human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Constitution of Botswana, are vital for a democracy as they safeguard the ability of citizens to organise around common needs and interests.
Original source: ARASA