The Court of Appeal has today dismissed with costs, government’s decision to appeal a High-court ruling allowing the registration of Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) as a Society.
Elated activists, some donning the famous rainbow colours that represent the diversity of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, gathered outside the courtroom after the ruling in celebration of the landmark ruling.
Government had wanted the court of appeal to overturn the decision of High Court Judge, Terrence Rannowane, who two years ago ruled that government had acted unconstitutionally in blocking LEGABIBO and ordered that the group be registered as a Society.
Government’s contention was that the registration of LEGABIBO would be in violation of the constitution as they believed that it would open a floodgate of same sex sexual activity in the country.
In today’s judgement, Justice Ian Kirby of the Court of Appeal, dismissed the appeal and held Justice Rannowane’s view that government’s stance violated the applicants’ rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly as enshrined under the Constitution. “Neither the Constitution, nor section 7 of the Societies Act, nor any other law to which we have been referred, confers upon the Minister (or any other functionary) an unrestricted power either to refuse something on the ground that such refusal is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society, or to decide what is reasonably required for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons,” he said.
Justice Kirby further ordered, in his ruling, that the decision of the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs refusing the registration of LEGABIBO as a society be set aside and that the Registrar of Societies make the necessary arrangements to register LEGABIBO as a society.
Meanwhile, the United States Embassy in Gaborone has issued a statement commending the Court of Appeal on the ruling.
The Embassy says the Court of Appeals’ judgment upheld the previous High Court ruling, endorsing the rights of association and expression set out in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Botswana’s own Constitution. “We join LEGABIBO and other prominent Batswana voices in their calls for non-discrimination of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI)community. Our societies are stronger when they accept, respect, and value diversity. We will continue to partner with and support Batswana from all backgrounds, orientations, and walks of life,” the statement reads in part.