LGBTQ+ Groups Denied Registration Even After Supreme Court Decision in Eswatini

Eswatini map LGBTQ rights group
Eswatini map LGBTQ rights group

In a move sparking international concern, the government of Eswatini has declined to register an LGBTQ+ rights group, Eswatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM), defying a ruling by the country’s Supreme Court.

The decision, unveiled in late September by the Eswatini Commerce, Industry, and Trade Ministry, as reported by the Washington Blade, underscores a widening schism between the nation’s judicial and executive branches over LGBTQ+ rights.

Eswatini, formerly Swaziland, is a landlocked kingdom between South Africa and Mozambique in southern Africa. Governed by a unitary absolute monarchy, the nation presents a unique political landscape in today’s global scene. The refusal to register ESGM, based on overlooking ‘Roman-Dutch Law,’ epitomizes a broader governmental disdain toward LGBTQ+ rights within the kingdom.

The saga began in 2019 when ESGM pursued legal registration, a request the Registrar of Companies thwarted. This spurred a legal confrontation that culminated in the country’s Supreme Court ruling in June, which deemed the initial refusal unconstitutional.

Related: World Bank Cuts Off Funds to Uganda Over Anti-LGBTQ+ Law

The latest stance by the government effectively overturns this Supreme Court ruling, attracting widespread condemnation from human rights organizations worldwide.

This denial to register ESGM marks a significant setback for LGBTQ+ rights in Eswatini.

This scenario is starkly mirrored in Uganda’s recent anti-LGBTQ+ law.

In August, the World Bank suspended new funding to Uganda, reacting to enacting a harsh Anti-Homosexuality Act that could result in capital punishment for people found guilty, showcasing the international financial institutions’ readiness to retract support amidst discriminatory legislation.

As the refusal of the Eswatini government to register ESGM garners international attention, it also shines a light on the broader struggle for LGBTQ+ rights across the African continent. The juxtaposition of the situations in Eswatini and Uganda unveils the formidable challenges that LGBTQ+ communities face, even with judicial support.