Supporters of LGBTI rights outside the High Court in Swaziland
A crowd of supporters in Swaziland (eSwatini), including the European Union Ambassador to the kingdom Esmeralda Hernandez Aragones, picketed the High Court as a local LGBTI rights group continued its fight for legal recognition.
The kingdom’s Registrar of Companies refused in September 2019 to recognise the eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM) and without this it cannot operate legally. ESGM aims to advance the protection of human rights of LGBTI ((lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people in Swaziland.
Homosexual activities are illegal in Swaziland and King Mswati III, the absolute monarch, is on record calling homosexuality ‘satanic’.
The court was due to hear the case on Wednesday (24 June 2020) but postponed it when Judge Mumcy Dlamini recused herself because one of the government’s lawyers Mbuso Dlamini is her brother-in-law.
Discrimination against LGBTI people is widespread in Swaziland. The Government says that the ESGM is illegal because it encourages same-sex activity. It says the Swazi Constitution does not specifically protect the rights of LGBTI people.
In a statement ahead of the hearing ESGM said, ‘ESGM argues that the Registrar was wrong to assume that ESGM’s purpose was illegal when there was no evidence of this. 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.
‘ESGM disagrees with the Registrar’s argument that our constitutional rights were not violated by the Registrar. Constitutional rights in eSwatini belong to everybody, whatever our difference. We all have the right to have our dignity respected and protected.’
In an affidavit to the court Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Trade, Siboniso Nkambule, said, ‘The actions of eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities constitute unnatural action which ought to be stopped in our society for purposes of our young generation as well as the public interest.’
The High Court will resume on 23 July 2020.
Campaigners supporting the eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities in its bid for legal recognition