- Botswana High Court issued the landmark decision in recognizing gender change of Tshepo Ricki Kgositau, a transgender woman.
- Although homosexual acts are considered a criminal offense, the High Court has been hailed as progressive for its earlier decisions in favor for transgender rights.
- Advocates welcome the ruling as it marks another victory for transgender people in the country.
Tshepo Ricki Kgositau, born a male, will now be able to get an identity card labelling her a woman before the end of this year thanks to the historic decision by the Botswana High Court that ordered the government to recognize her gender.
Marked as a legal victory LGBT rights in the country, Kgositau, 30, said that it is only the beginning in demanding for more access to all other rights and that the ruling is dedicated for every single trans diverse person in Botswana.
According to transgender latest news by The Independent posted on Monday, the decision culminated a four-year legal battle in a country where same-sex acts are still considered a crime.
The High Court, however, has been hailed as progressive since blocking the government’s ban on the gay rights group Legabibo in 2014. Early this year, it has also ordered that the group be allowed by the government to register as an organization.
In October, it also granted legal gender recognition for a transgender man for the first time in Botswana.
Kgositau, known as Ricki to her friends and directory of transgender advocacy organization Gender Dynamix, had since identified as a woman when she was a child. Official documents stating that she is a male caused her distress and made her vulnerable to abuse and violence.
“I feel truly blessed to be living in such times of the change I have wanted to see since I was a little girl,” Ricki said. “Robbing someone the respect for their identity is telling them that they do not matter and are perhaps a non-person or non-citizen.”
She continued that the ruling gave hope to members of the LGBT community in a country that routinely rejected attempts of individuals to change gender and where homosexuals have few rights and suffer prejudice.
Advocates received the ruling positively. Legabibo, which has been part of the Kgositau’s case, said that it raises awareness around this issue in the country.
“This is the first step to legal reform for LGBTI people and especially for transgender persons,” Legabibo’s chief executive Anna Mmolai-Chalmers said. “The judgment is a great resource for awareness raising in the public sector and the general public to reform public opinion and we are hoping for improved public practice in issuing national identity cards.”
Legabibo advocacy officer Caine Youngman added that what the ruling reveals is that LGBT people are accommodated in their own country, explaining, “If you have a problem if you’re being appeased because of who you are or what you identify as then there is actually space for you to go and report it.”
Youngman also pointed out how the refusal to recognize preferred gender of individuals violates their constitutional rights.
For instance, they can be refused healthcare because the gender on official documents does not match their appearance.
“Some of them, they get bullied, they get kicked out of healthcare,” he said.
Kgositau, who will continue fighting in other African countries including Namibia and Zimbabwe for better healthcare and wants to open access for transgender people like her, said that this month marked a year since she underwent gender confirmation surgery in Thailand, an event that she considers a huge milestone in her life.
“My narrative will kick open these doors that have been closing trans persons away from the feast of human rights that others have been enjoying,” she said. “Our leaders need to be held accountable for not providing such healthcare to those in need of it and deserving of it,” she said.