LEGABIBO FIGHTS TO BE REGISTERED
Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana
takes its government to court
Ratanang Mosweu (in a grey suit) briefing about the case background before they headed to court. Photo taken by Gugu Mandla
18 March 2014, Botswana
by Kokeletso Legoete
On tuesday morning LEGABIBO case took to court. Represented by Botswana’s Unity Dow;a human rights activist and a legal judge. Tuesday morning the LEGABIBO members and supporters had a breakfast briefing at the Lansmore hotel. Heads of arguments and the case background/history were presented to the group in preparation and information sharing concerning the case the organization has filed against the state.
LEGABIBO was denied registration on the 12th of March 2012, because according to the Director of the Department of Civil and National Registration, Botswana constitution does not recognise homosexuals and that the objectives of the organization are contrary to section 7(2) of the Societies Act.
The heads of argument to the registration of the organization are based on violation of various rights of the Lesbians, Gays and bisexuals of Botswana that are deeply -rooted in the Botswana Constitution.
Rights violated are:
- Section 13 which provides for the protection of freedom of assembly and association;
- Section 12 which provides for the protection of freedom of expression;
- Section 15 which provides for protection from discrimination;
- Section 5 which provides for the right to personal liberty;
- Section 7 which provides for the protection from inhuman treatment.
After the case background briefing, a session of poster presentation took place shortly before the group headed to court. The organization members had dedicated a day to making posters that expressed their right and opinions regarding the state’s refusal to register an organization where they can freely associate and share ideas. The intention was to march to court prior to the court proceeding, however they were denied permit to march. That did not stop them from spreading in groups and walking to the high court with their placards raised high.
Dr. Unity Dow, LEGABIBO legal representative preparing herself to present the case in court. Photo by Ayanda Msiza
Dr. Unity Dow took approximately three(3) hours addressing the background of the case, with reference to the Botswana constitution, outlaying the heads of argument as to why the organization needs to be legally registered.
“This is a case about the right to organise, the right to assemble the right to a platform. If you don’t give them a chance to convince, you may still not agree at the end of the day, but I think democracy demands that every group have a right or an opportunity to try to convince...whether or not people agree with me or agree with the state, I think this is very important. My clients wants to be registered...” Dr. Dow said to Iranti.
The courtroom was filled with LGBTI people from across Botswana to support the organization. All dressed in red T-shirts with advocacy message “Free to organize. It’s our right". Dr. Dow was stunned by the attendance and support of the gay community in court “I was impressed by how many people came to court. I know is not that easy to come out and say I am gay, so I am impressed by the gay community that came to court today. Because the world is run by those who show up, and they showed up today”
Advocate Moatlhodi Marumo who stood in as the case opponent argued that the courts are not responsible for making the laws of the country, and that LEGABIBO should understand it as the decision of parliament. Instead of probably opposing the case and defending the Director of the Department of Civil and National Registration’s reaction to the organization, his argument was based on the approach that the organization took in addressing their issue.
He expressed that the applicants were wrong to file a case to court without consulting other stakeholders of the decision makers on why LEGABIBO cannot be registered. Seemingly unprepared or uninformed of the case, little did he attempt to defend his argument.
Bachizi Kwele, a young gay man who came to offer support to LEGABIBO was very excited and eager to hear what the government has to say regarding the case, “ this is a step in history for us to achieve a huge mandate. It was mandatory for me to be here, to show support, to get my voice heard because for me to be recognized I have to step up and say, hey, i am here and i want to be recognized”.
Freedom of association is a fundamental human right for every group that shares the same interest and seek to engage in issues that affect them. Iranti is fully in support of the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana and we will report on this case till the very end. The date for judgment is to be announced in time by the judge.