13 April 2012:
REBUTTAL OF LEGABIBO REGISTRATION UNREASONABLE
The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) and LEGABIBO have condemned and dismissed reasons for a second rebuttal of LEGABIBO’s registration by the Registrar of Societies as unreasonable, unfair and unjustifiable.
On the 16th February 2012, LEGABIBO lodged an application for legal registration in accordance with the Societies Act. Thereafter, acting for the director of the Department of Civil and National Registration, Roniel P. Mothobi penned a response dated 12th March 2012, rejecting LEGABIBO’s application. The letter, by the Director claimed that the constitution does not recognize homosexuality, and that based on the Societies Act Section 7 (2) (a), the registration of LEGABIBO is likely to be unlawful or prejudicial to or incompatible with peace, welfare or good order in Botswana.
However, BONELA and LEGABIBO wish to state that the reasons for refusal as contained in the response are irrational, unfair and unjustifiable for the following reasons:
1.1 The director’s decision was erroneously reached as regards non-recognition of homosexuals by the Constitution. In fact homosexuality is not outlawed by any law in the country including the Constitution.
1.1 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.
2.0 The other reason for refusal as relied upon pursuant to Section 7 (2) (a) of the Societies Act is unjustifiable and unfair as the objectives of LEGABIBO are not unlawful, but rather seek to do the following:
2.1 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. A Needs Assessment was carried out by BONELA in 2008 which revealed that the LGBTI community is vulnerable to HIV infection hence the need to provide targeted prevention, treatment, care and support interventions.
2.2 Align to national priorities in the response to HIV and AIDS. The NSF II states that: “… more research is needed to determine the negative impact of stigma and discrimination against most at risk populations since they reinforce social barriers that inhibit health seeking behaviours.” See paragraph 1.2.4, page 12 of the NSF II.
2.3 Enhance the work of government in pursuit of NSF 11 above. To this extent,LEGABIBO through BONELA, is supporting the Government of Botswana through the Ministry of Health in 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.
2.4 LEGABIBO’s main objective is to create a tolerant society, a sentiment that has been echoed by the resolutions of National AIDS Council calling for decriminalization of homosexuality.
In addition, His Excellency the President of the Republic of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama Ian Khama has been quoted as saying ‘I don’t think being gay is illegal….they can fully participate in society like everyone else …being gay is private’. [The Voice newspaper : 12th November 2010].
Based on the foregoing, it is clear that the refusal to register LEGABIBO goes against the grain of current critical thinking on homosexuality as espoused by Botswana’s leadership and the highest policy making institutions in the country.
We thus call for a review of the matter as LEGABIBO strives to contribute meaningfully to our country’s national AIDS response that seeks to achieve “Zero new HIV Infections, Zero Stigma and Discrimination and AIDS Related Deaths”, which we can only achieve through the formal registration of LEGABIBO.