Botswana LGBT rights group wins legal recognition in landmark case

LEGABIBO supporters celebrate outside the Botswana high court on Friday. LEGABIBO

LEGABIBO supporters celebrate outside the Botswana high court on Friday.LEGABIBO

LEGABIBO supporters celebrate outside the Botswana high court on Friday.

GABORONE, Botswana — A judge in Botswana on Friday overturned a government ban on a gay rights lobbying group, saying refusal to recognize the group was “under the mistaken belief that the applicants intended to engage in homosexual practices.”

Reuters reports that Justice Terrence Rannoane ruled that the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) would be allowed to register and campaign for changes to anti-gay legislation but reiterated that it was still illegal to engage in homosexual acts.

“In a democratic society such as ours, freedom of expression, assembly and association are important values duly protected by our constitution,” Rannoane said.

“The decision to refuse LEGABIBO registration was taken under the mistaken belief that the applicants intended to engage in homosexual practice, which is a crime,” he added.

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

The ruling is a rare victory for gay rights campaigners in Africa, a continent where homosexuality remains illegal in many countries.

The Botswana Penal Code, based on old English law, describes homosexual acts as offenses against morality, punishable by up to seven years in prison.

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