On Friday, 14 November, the court said that the refusal by government bodies to register Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) under the Botswana Societies Act was unconstitutional.

The state had insisted that it could not register the group as the Constitution “does not recognise homosexuals” and because the organisation could be used for an “unlawful purpose.”

LEGABIBO argued, however, that the refusal was clearly discriminatory and violated its members’ right to freedom of association, assembly, and expression.

Wisely, Justice Terence Rannowane agreed, and ruled that, “the [objectives] of LEGABIBO as reflected in the society’s constitution are all ex facie lawful. They include carrying out political lobbying for equal rights and decriminalisation of same sex relationships.”

“The ruling is particularly significant within an African context as LGBT rights groups in a number of countries – including Kenya and Mozambique – have been refused registration,” commented OUT Health Manager Johan Meyer. “This limits their ability to operate legitimately, to be recognised by and work with government entities and to raise funds.”

He added: “LEGABIBO’s victory is a victory for key democratic values. Attempting to stifle discussion, debate and openness only serves to diminish our shared humanity. Democracy is not just about allowing who and what we’re comfortable with, it’s a right for all of Africa’s citizens – no matter who they love.”

Expression of same-sex love is currently illegal in 38 African countries.