African Courts recognize sexually diverse persons and LGBTI advocates

Many thanks to Godfrey Kangaude, author of a highlight commentary “Towards Respect for Human Diversity,” in  Legal Grounds III: Reproductive and Sexual Rights in Sub-Saharan African Courts (forthcoming February 2017).  We are pleased to provide the following excerpt for REPROHEALTHLAW subscribers:

. . . Many governments have adopted constitutions that recognise human dignity and equality. Yet in The Attorney General of Botswana v. Thuto Rammoge and 19 Others, the Attorney General of Botswana tried to argue that the Constitution of Botswana did not apply to persons of non-heterosexual orientation. This reflects a pervasive attitude in governments driven by politicians who do not believe in the human dignity and equality stipulated by their own constitutions.

Persons of non-heterosexual orientation, or whose gender identity and expression does not conform to some traditional gender notions, continue to face government-sponsored hate and victimization.  Sometimes this has been indirect, for instance through a refusal to recognise the rights to association and expression such as in the Thuto Rammoge cases in Botswana [1, 2], the Gitari case [3] and Ex-parte Transgender Education and Advocacy case [4] in Kenya, and the Kasonkomona case [5] in Zambia. Apart from criminalizing sexual conduct, governments deploy other laws to prevent LGBTI persons from enjoying their right to association and expression. In the Kasonkomona case, the government used vagrancylaws to try and deny persons the right to talk freely about LGBTI rights.

In all the above mentioned cases, however, the courts applied human rights norms to the issues raised before them and vindicated the claims that LGBTI persons are deserving of human rights because they are in the first place, human beings. However, the case of C.O.L. & G.M.N.,[6] where the Kenyan Court upheld the constitutionality of the law compelling anal examinations in order to prove homosexual behaviour, indicates that there is a great deal that has to be done to secure enjoyment of rights of all persons including decriminalization of sexual conduct involving non-heterosexual intimacy, and also recognition of gender diversity.  The victories in these cases are significant as they are beacons of light in the midst of pervasive discrimination against LGBTI persons. The positive judgments refresh the obligations of governments to be faithful to their own constitutions to respect the fundamental values of human dignity and equality of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. This negative judgement, though, calls for vigilance to realise human rights for everyone.

[1]  Thuto Rammoge & 19 Others v. The Attorney General of Botswana  [2014] MAHGB-000175-13  (Botswana, High Court). [Homosexual rights advocacy society received official recognition.]   Decision online.   Short abstract by Michelle HaymanCase summary for Legal Grounds III.

[2] Attorney General of Botswana v. Thuto Rammoge & 19 Others  [2016] CACGB-128-14 (Botswana, Court of Appeal at Gaborone).  [Appeal dismissed]   Decision onlineCase summary for Legal Grounds III.

[3] Eric Gitari v. Non-Governmental Organizations Co-Ordination Board & 4 Others, [2015] eKLR, Petition No. 440 of 2013  (Kenya, High Court at Nairobi).  [LGBT organizations can be registered.]  Decision online.   Case summary and analysis for Legal Grounds III.

[4] Republic v. Non-Governmental Organizations Co-ordination Board & another ex-parte Transgender Education and Advocacy & 3 Others [2014] eKLR, JR Miscellaneous Application No. 308a of 2013 (Kenya, High Court). [Transgender organization can be registered].   Decision onlineCase summary and analysis for Legal Grounds III.

[5] People v. Paul Kasonkomona [2015] HPA/53/2014  (Zambia, High Court).[Freedom of expression: HIV/LGBT activist acquitted for remarks made on television.]   Decisions and documents onlineCase summary and analysis for Legal Grounds III.

[6]  C.O.L. & G.M.N. v. Resident Magistrate Kwale Court & Others, Petition No. 51 of 2015 (Kenya, High Court –Constitutional and Judicial Review Division).  [Court allowed medical examinations including anal exams to prove crime of homosexuality].  Decision online.   Case summary and analysis for Legal Grounds III.

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Compiled by the Coordinator of the International Reproductive and Sexual Health Law Program, reprohealth*law at utoronto.ca.   For Program publications and resources, see our website, online here.     TO JOIN THIS BLOG: enter your email address in upper right corner of this webpage, then check your email to confirm the subscription.

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