The Gaborone High Court is expected to rule next week on whether the Botswana government will be forced to register a gay rights group.
In February 2012, LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana) applied for registration under the terms of the Societies Act. A month later, the Department of Civil and National Registration rejected the application, stating that Botswana’s Constitution does not recognise homosexuals.
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.”
LEGABIBO, which was formed in 1998, appealed the decision to the authorities but this was also rejected by the Minister of Labour and Home Affairs in October 2012.
The organisation then asked the Gaborone High Court to overturn the registrar of societies’ refusal of registration. The matter was argued before a judge in March this year, and the decision is set to be delivered next week Tuesday.
LEGABIBO claims that the decision to reject its registration violates a number of fundamental constitutional rights, including freedom of assembly and association; freedom of expression; protection from discrimination; and the right to personal liberty.
Not being officially registered also limits the ability of the organisation to raise funds.
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.