Feature story

Botswana Court of Appeal upholds ruling in favour of registration of LGBTI organization

17 March 2016

On 16 March, the Botswana Court of Appeal ruled that the refusal by the government to register LEGABIBO, an organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people, was unconstitutional. The Court of Appeal thus upheld the November 2014 decision of the Botswana High Court on this matter. In its ruling on the case, the Court of Appeal highlighted the potential role of LGBTI organizations in public health and HIV efforts and ordered the Registrar of Societies to register it.

The ground-breaking decision concludes a four-year legal proceeding initiated in February 2012, when several individuals filed an application for the registration of LEGABIBO as an organization under the laws of Botswana. The government denied their application, arguing, among other things, that LGBTI rights were not recognized by the constitution. Activists challenged the decision in court.

In November 2014, the High Court ruled that the government’s refusal to register LEGABIBO violated the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association protected by the country’s constitution. This was the first time a high jurisdiction in Africa had upheld freedom of assembly and association for LGBTI people. The government appealed against the ruling.

In the lead-up to the United Nations General Assembly High-Level Meeting on Ending AIDS, to be held in June, the decision by the Botswana Court of Appeal highlights the importance of advancing zero discrimination and of creating a legal and political space for the protection and involvement of LGBTI people and other key populations in the AIDS response. 

LEGABIBO’s mission is to promote the recognition, acceptance and protection of all human rights of the LGBTI community in Botswana. One of if its main objectives is to promote sexual health among LGBTI people.