Thuto Rammoge & ors v. Attorney General of Botswana

In 2014, a judgment of the High Court of Botswana overturned the Department of Labour and Home Affairs’ refusal to register a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) organisation.

In 2014, 20 petitioners brought proceedings in the High Court against the Minister of Home Affairs. The Minister had supported the decision of the Direction of the Department of Civil and National Registration not to allow the organisation, Lesbian, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) to register as society.

The Director of the Department of Civil and National Registration rejected the registration based on two claims; first, that the Botswana Constitution did not recognise homosexuals and; second, that registering an organisation that supported LGBT individuals would contravene Section 7(2)(a) of the Societies Act which enabled the Department to refuse registrations that were ‘likely to be used for any unlawful purpose or any purpose prejudicial to, or incompatible with peace, welfare or good order in Botswana.’ The Minister of Home Affairs upheld this reasoning.

The 20 petitioners argued that the decision of the Minister to refuse to register their organisation violated their constitutional rights, including their rights to freedom of association (Section 13), freedom of expression (Section 12), and equal protection of the law (Section 3) guaranteed under the Constitution.

The court determined that the activities of LEGABIBO were not unlawful stating that ‘there is nothing inherently sinister or unlawful about the process of lobbying or advocacy.’ The court added that the ‘applications by LEGABIBO is not for the registration of their society for the purposes of having same sex relationships but rather for agitating for legislative reforms so that same sex relationships would be decriminalised.’ On the Department’s second point, the court held that ‘there is no provision of Botswana Constitution that expressly states that it does not recognise homosexuals.’

On 14 November 2014, the High Court concluded a landmark decision stating, ‘refusal to register LEGABIBO was not reasonably justifiable under the Constitution of Botswana nor under Section 7(2)(a) of the Societies Act (CAP 18:01). It violated the applicants’ rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of assembly, as enshrined under Sections 3, 12 and 13 of the Constitution of Botswana.’

Download the judgment