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LGBT Rights Group Wins Landmark Case In Botswana

This is the second ruling from an African court this year upholding the right to form LGBT organizations.

Posted on November 14, 2014, at 9:06 a.m. ET

Updated — Feb 14, 9:27 a.m EST

A court in Botswana's capital, Gaborone, ruled on Friday that the government cannot refuse to register the LGBT organization known as LEGABIBO (Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals of Botswana).

This is the culmination of a 10-year battle in the Southern African country, where LEGABIBO's fundraising and other activities have been hindered by its inability to get official sanction to operate. A written copy of the judgement was not immediately available, but LEGABIBO's coordinator, Caine Youngman, said the group was "overjoyed at the outcome of the case."

"Lesbians, gays, and bisexuals have long strived to be able to form an organisation which can support them and be their voice on matters that affect them," Youngman told reporters in Botswana. "It has been a long and arduous journey towards recognition and we are relieved that the court has protected our rights."

The ruling does not appear to affect Botswana's sodomy law, which includes the same provision criminalizing homosexuality as most other former British colonies in Africa. But a ruling that it is discriminatory to deny LGBT people the right to form organizations could provide the foundation for a legal strategy that might later allow a direct challenge to the sodomy code.

This is the hope in Kenya, where a court ruled in July that authorities could not deny registration to the organization Transgender Education and Advocacy. Following this ruling and the defeat of the Anti-Homosexuality Act in the Constitutional Court of neighboring Uganda in August, the director of Kenya's National Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission announced a lawsuit would be filed to challenge Kenya's sodomy statute.

Here is the full ruling.