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This Swaziland LGBT+ group is fighting for the right to exist in a country that calls gay people ‘satanic’

Emma Powys Maurice June 24, 2020
Swaziland

The second Pride parade ever held in Swaziland on June 22, 2019 (MONGI ZULU/AFP/Getty)

An LGBT+ advocacy group in Swaziland is challenging a High Court ruling that forbids it from operating in the country.

Homosexuality is illegal in Swaziland (eSwatini) and LGBT+ people face extreme levels of discrimination and harassment, in part due to the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

The deeply conservative kingdom is ruled by King Mswati III who has previously described homosexuality as “satanic”.

eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM) was founded as one of the few advocacy groups lobbying for basic legal recognition and protection for LGBT+ people.

But the organisation itself if now fighting to exist after it was prohibited from registering on the country’s registrar of companies in September last year.

Swaziland LGBT+ group headed for High Court.

According to All Africa, the registrar argued that ESGM’s purpose was unlawful because same-sex sexual acts were illegal in the kingdom.

The right to equality did not apply to LGBT+ people, the registrar said, because sexual orientation and sex are not mentioned explicitly in the eSwatini constitution.

The group has now taken the fight to the country’s highest court as it challenges the registrar’s decision, arguing that the registrar’s refusal violated ESGM members’ rights to dignity, to associate and express themselves freely, to be treated equally and not to be discriminated against.

They claim the registrar misrepresented the law and that his refusal to register ESGM violated its members’ constitutional rights.

“ESGM argues that the registrar was wrong to assume that ESGM’s purpose was illegal when there was no evidence of this,” the group said in a statement.

“ESGM’s mission is to protect and advance the interests of LGBTI persons through education and advocacy. eSwatini’s laws do not make it a crime to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

“The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly. Our laws also do not make it a crime to campaign to protect the rights of LGBTI persons. We are free to speak our minds and to associate with — spend time with — anybody we want to.”

More: Africa, eswatini, eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities, HIV/AIDS, Swaziland

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