Botswana gay rights group wins right to exist after court battle

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A court in Botswana has ruled that the government acted illegally when it banned a gay rights group.

The Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Botswana group (Legabibo) took a case to the country’s High Court, after it was blocked from registering as an organisation by the Department of Labour and Home Affairs.

However, today a judge ruled that despite the country’s laws – which punish gay sex with up to five years in jail – there was no legal way to stop a gay rights group from existing.

The group’s coordinator Caine Youngman told the BBC: “I am happy with the judgement – it has sent a message to the government, the entire region and Africa.

“We are overjoyed at the outcome of the case. Lesbians, gays and bisexuals have long strived to be able to form an organisation which can support them and be their voice on matters that affect them.

“It has been a long and arduous journey towards recognition and we are relieved that the court has protected our rights.

Anneke Meerkotter from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre told the Maravi Post: “The judgment emphasises the importance of the rights to freedom of expressions, association and assembly in a democracy.

“The judgment will benefit not only the prospective members of LEGABIBO, but any minority group which seeks to uphold its right to freedom of association in Botswana in the future.

“Importantly, the judgment emphasises that it is not a crime to be homosexual or attracted to someone of the same sex.

“The court finding is important not just for activists in Botswana but throughout Africa.”