A full bench of the Court of Appeal of Botswana has delivered a significant judgment in the case of Attorney General v Thuto Rammoge and 19 Others upholding the decision of the High Court and ordering the Botswana government to register the organisation Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) as a society in terms of the Societies Act.
In 2012, LEGABIBO applied but were refused registration as a society by the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs. The government’s position was that LGB persons’ rights were not recognised by the Constitution and the objectives of LEGABIBO were incompatible with peace, welfare and good order in Botswana.
Thuto Rammoge and other activists, with support from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), the Open Society Initiative of Southern Africa (OSISA) and BONELA, took the government to the High Court seeking a review of the decision to refuse registration. They argued that the decision was irrational and in violation of their constitutional rights to equal protection of the law, freedom of association and freedom of expression. The activists obtained a successful judgment in the High Court in November 2014, but the State appealed the decision.
The Court of Appeal reaffirmed that the refusal to register LEGABIBO was both irrational and in violation of the right to freedom of association. In an important judgment for the LGBTI community, the Court emphasised that there is no legislation in Botswana which prohibits anyone from being homosexual. The Court went further to hold that the objectives of LEGABIBO, which include promoting the human rights of LGBTI persons and advocating for law reform, were not unlawful. Importantly, the Court of Appeal emphasised that fundamental rights are to be enjoyed by every person and to deny this, is denying an individual’s human dignity.