Transgender man wins landmark 10-year-long legal battle for recognition from Botswana
A Botswanan man has won a momentous victory for transgender rights in the African country.
The trans man has been legally recognised as male after a 10-year-long legal battle.
Homosexuality is illegal in Botswana, with a maximum seven-year jail term for those convicted of so-called “unnatural offences”.
The country was also one of 13 at the United Nations – including the US – to vote against banning the death penalty for gay people.
But in a landmark ruling, the Botswana High Court has ordered the country’s government to change the gender marker on a trans man’s identity card from female to male.
The man, who can’t be named for legal reasons, said: “This is an immense relief,” according to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“I am hopeful that other persons who find themselves in a similar situation will be dealt with in a more respectful manner when they apply for new identity cards,” he added.
In his judgment, Justice Godfrey Nthomiwa said the government had violated the plaintiff’s rights to dignity, privacy, freedom of expression and equality.
He added that the government had also contravened the man’s right to freedom from discrimination and inhumane and degrading treatment.
But Tshiamo Rantao, the trans man’s lawyer, said that the landmark victory was not just about his client.
“This is great victory for the transgender community,” he said, “because many more have been fighting the gender marker battle for years.”
The move follows last year’s decision by the country’s Court of Appeal to dismiss an appeal by the government against a ruling which allowed LGBT rights organisations to officially exist.
The legal battle had been rumbling on since 2014, when the High Court ruled that there was no legal way to stop the Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Botswana group (Legabibo) from officially registering.
Another case over transgender rights in the country will be heard in December, brought by Botswanan trans woman Tshepo Ricki Kgositau.
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Kgositau, who leads trans rights group Gender DynamiX, said in court papers that she identified as female from a young age.
Her male identity card caused her emotional distress and increased her vulnerability to abuse and violence, she added.
Her mother, siblings and other relatives have submitted supportive statements which say that “her family has embraced her and loved her as a woman”.
Rantao said: “Surely the judge who will be presiding over Kgositau’s case will have to refer to this judgment.”