Botswana refuses to register gay advocacy group

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The department of civil and national registration in Botswana faces legal action after it refused to register a group called the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LeGaBiBo).

The country’s Attorney General has been informed that lawyers for the group intend to sue the government, reports Mmegi Online.

The registration was refused because LEGABIBO was ruled to be contrary to the Botswana penal code, which outlaws male and female homosexual acts.

The gay group cannot legally raise funds unless it is registered.

The registrar has powers to refuse registration of any local society “when it appears to him or her that the proposed society’s objectives are likely to be used for an unlawful purpose, thus disturbing the country’s peace, welfare and good order,” according to Mmegi Online.

LEGABIBO’s lawyers argue that the group was constituted to advocate for greater rights for gay, lesbian and bisexual people in Botswana through policy consultation and tackling public health issues.

The group’s constitution, adopted in August 1998, reads:

“The Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) Charter was drafted in response to those amendments to the Botswana Penal Code, which came into effect on the 30th April 1998 and extended the seven year maximum penalty, for men caught engaging in same-sex sexual relations, to women as well.

“It is hoped that this Carter will help to break down the negative image, and counter the prejudice and discrimination, currently facing the lesbian, gay and bisexual community in Botswana.

“We, the Community, are rejected, victimised, assaulted and blackmailed.

“This is because of societal myths and because homosexuality is a taboo subject in our culture.

“We face stigmatisation and prejudice from family members, friends, and society in general.

“The Charter calls for tolerance and understanding by the Government and people of Botswana, in order to counteract the prejudice and discrimination we face.”

The notice of LEGABIBO’s intention to sue the government for refusing to register their organisation says the decision was improper and unlawful.

“Claimant holds the firm view that this matter implicates a whole array of constitutional rights and protections not least of which are the right to freedom of expression, freedom of association as well as the right to the equal protection of the law,” it reads.