Challenge to Botswana anti-gay law is ready; court isn’t

LGBT rights advocates in Botswana are preparing to challenge the country’s law against same-sex intimacy, but the court system in Botswana isn’t quite ready to hear their challenge.

Legabibo members at court. (Thalefang Charles photo courtesy of Mmegi Online)
Legabibo members at court. (Thalefang Charles photo courtesy of Mmegi Online)

MmegiOnline reported today about the legal challenge planned by the Botswanan LGBT rights group Legabibo:

Legabibo was to go head to head against the government today challenging for the recognition of homosexuality in the country.

Legabibo legal representative Tshiamo Rantao in a brief interview said the case was yet to be given a judge and that they are in limbo as to when it will be called.

”We were hoping to argue the matter today but it seems the case is not yet allocated a judge and as it stands we will have to wait,” he said.

Meanwhile the society that has been advocating for the rights of homosexuals and minority groups has already won a battle against the government for its registration in 2016.

Legabibo has been in court to overturn Botswana’s anti-LGBT law since last year, when it received court authorization to take part in a case challenging the constitutionality of Sections 164 and 165 of the Penal Code.

Legabibo had hoped the case would be heard today, as News24 reported yesterday:

Group challenges criminalisation of same-sex relationships in Botswana

Botswana’s High Court is expected on Thursday to hear a case in which the constitutionality of the provisions that criminalise same-sex sexual acts between consenting persons will be challenged.

In a statement, a human rights advocacy group, Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), said that it had submitted factual evidence that sought to demonstrate that continued criminalisation of consensual same-sex sexual acts perpetuated stigma, intolerance, homophobia and violence against members of the LGBT community.

Logo of LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana)
Logo of LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana)

“LEGABIBO will argue that decriminalisation of same-sex sexual acts would not only greatly enhance public health – by assisting with treatment, care and education in the fight against HIV in particular – but it will also affirm basic human rights and the diversity of the Botswana nation,” read part of the statement.

This will not be the first time the country’s vulnerable LGBT community has sought the courts to decide on rights issues affecting its members.

According to Human Rights Watch, the country’s High Court last year ruled that a transgender man should be allowed to hold official documents that reflect his gender identity.

The rights group described the judgment as a “huge victory for transgender people in Botswana, who face considerable challenges when their gender identity is not reflected in official papers”.

Botswana is touted as one of Africa’s most democratic nations, yet homosexuality is outlawed under the penal code of 1965, and punishable by prison term of up to seven years.

Homosexuality is a crime in most African countries.

South Africa is the only country on the continent whose constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and recognises same-sex marriages.

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