The leading LGBTI rights group in Botswana has again been denied the right to legally register the organisation by the authorities.

Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO), which was launched in 1998, first applied for registration with the registrar of societies in 2005 and was promptly refused.

LEGABIBO re-applied in February this year but it was again rejected last month.

The registrar justified its decision by saying that the country’s constitution does not recognise homosexuality.

It also said that it could not register any group that “is likely to be used for any unlawful purpose or any purpose prejudicial to or incompatible with peace, welfare or good order in Botswana”.

Not being officially registered limits the ability of the organisation to raise funds to sustain itself.

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and LEGABIBO condemned and dismissed the reasons for the second refusal as “unreasonable, unfair and unjustifiable”.

In a statement, they argued that the decision was reached erroneously as homosexuality is not illegal per-se in Botswana and noted that it is recognised by the country’s Employment Act, which outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

They also quoted President Seretse Khama Ian Khama as saying in 2010 that, “I don’t think being gay is illegal….they can fully participate in society like everyone else …being gay is private”.

The organisations called for a review of the decision, insisting that LEGABIBO can only achieve its goals, including its efforts against the HIV epidemic, through its formal registration.

While homosexuality is not specifically outlawed in Botswana, it could be prosecuted under Section 164 of the Penal Code that bars “carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature,” with penalties including seven years in prison.

Last year, LEGABIBO launched a lawsuit against the Botswana government in a bid to have Section 164 declared unconstitutional. It later suspended the suit saying that it needed to gather more support and evidence for its case, but that it will resume its action as soon as possible.

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