Botswana Lesbians and Gays Organization (LEGABIBO) is threatening to take government to court following a decision by the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs to turn down their application for registration.
LEGABIBO has written to the ministry charging that reasons cited by the Director, Roniel Mothobi, for refusal to register the organization are “irrational, unfair and unjustifiable”.
The organisation argues that “homosexuality is not outlawed by any law in the country, including the Constitution. As a matter of fact, sexual orientation has since been recognized as a principle for non-discrimination in several legal and policy instruments, for example Section 24 (d) of the Employment Act (CAP 47:01) outlaws discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. As well as the Constitution of Botswana protects Citizens from discriminatory practices.”
The organisation states that objectives of LEGABIBO as laid out are not unlawful but rather seek to “mitigate against the hard felt effects of homophobia and advance a human rights based approach to programming for health and social services in Botswana”.
LEGABIBO points out that a needs assessment study was also carried out by BONELA in 2008, which revealed that the gay and lesbian community is vulnerable to HIV infection hence the need to provide targeted prevention, treatment, care and support interventions and that there was a need for more research to determine the negative impact of stigma and discrimination against most at risk population since they reinforce social barriers that inhibit health seeking behavior.
The Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Health is rolling out a survey which seeks to map the population of most at risk populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM); identify associated risk factors and determine HIV prevalence amongst MSM. LEGABIBO says their objectives are in line with those of government.
“LEGABIBO’s main objective is to create a tolerant society, a sentiment that has been echoed by the resolutions of the National AIDS Council calling for decriminalisation of homosexuality”, states the letter.
The letter also expressed hope that, the decision to deny LEGABIBO registration will be reviewed. The organization says it is open to further dialogue on the matter.