Queer Warrior: Tashwill Esterhuizen

@tashwillesterhuizen, Human Rights Lawyer

In a ground-breaking unanimous decision, on 11 June 2019, the Botswana High Court became the second Court in Africa, to decriminalise same-sex sexual conduct among consenting adults.

The win was monumental for the LGBTQIA community in Botswana, it would not have been possible without the selfless work of activists in Botswana and Human Rights Lawyer Tashwill Esterhizen who is dedicated to working on queer rights.

“We started strategizing on a plan-of-action years before the win. The first of which was the registration of LEGABIBO registration case, this was the start of our plan. A big part of the strategy was to incrementally litigate less controversial cases affecting the rights of queer folk before tackling the more serious human rights issues.”

Botswana had for years refused the registration of LEGABIBO as an NGO in the country. The government sought to justify this discrimination on that basis that official recognition of an organisation that protects and promotes the rights of the LGBT community was incongruous in light of the criminalisation of same-sex sexual conduct. Later on the court of appeal was quoted as saying “once we [as a society] recognise that persons who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or intersex are human beings… we must accord them the human rights which are guaranteed by the constitution to all persons, by virtue of their being human, in order to protect their dignity”.

The next big win in the strategy came in 2017 when the high court ordered the gender marker of a transgender man be changed from female to male. Tashwill says “We knew we had them then! It was now time to strike and start the litigation process on the decriminalisation case.”

A mere two years later the tireless work of Tashwill and all the activists from Botswana came to fruition.

What a great win that definitely dispels the myth that being queer is in any way or form Un-African.

Words: Treyvone Moo


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