LGBTI activists in Swaziland (eSwatini) are back in the High Court in an attempt to have their advocacy group officially registered and made legal.
The eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM) had their registration application rejected in September 2019. The Registrar of Companies refused saying the group’s objectives were unlawful because same-sex sexual acts were illegal in the kingdom.
An appeal is now being heard at the High Court. On Friday in submissions the government argued that homosexuality was contrary to biblical teachings. The ESGM case was due to be heard on Tuesday (20 October 2020.)
ESGM is a human rights community-based advocacy organisation which aims to advance the protection of human rights of LGBTI (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersex) people in Swaziland.
In a statement ESGM said homosexuality was not illegal in Swaziland and the law did not make it a crime to campaign to protect the rights of LGBTI people.
Melusi Simelane, ESGM Executive Director, said, ‘While Christianity underpins much of the values in eSwatini, we are a secular state. This is a case about the dignity of persons and not about the will of the majority or any religious debate.’
Discrimination against LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex) people in Swaziland is widespread but in recent years they have become more visible and vocal. The first ever Pride march took place in 2018.
A report published in 2019 written by two academics and the Southern and East African Research Collective on Health found evidence of serious human rights violations against Swazi people who were LGBTI. The report concluded they suffered ‘social exclusion, marginalisation and stigma’ because they were seen as being different from the rest of the population.
This, the report said, ‘has a negative impact on the mental health and wellbeing of people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex’.
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