A court in eSwatini, Africa’s last absolute monarchy where homosexuality is still banned, has rejected a bid by the country’s leading LGBTQ rights group for official recognition, the group said Saturday.
The judges “continually state that the organisation wants to sell sex to the public. This is nowhere found in the mandate and vision of the organisation,” said Sisanda Mavimbela, executive director of Eswatini Gender Minorities, which aims to protect, promote and advance LGBTQ rights.
The country’s high court in the capital Mbabane ruled Friday that the real purpose of the NGO, which fights for access to care for LGBTQ people, is to spread information about same-sex sexual practices, and condemned the publicity of such issues.
“What is in the sanctity of the home should not be shouted out on the mountain top,” said judge Mumcy Dlamini.
In the small, impoverished state of 1.3 million people, gay couples cannot marry or adopt children. Homosexuality is outlawed by a law prohibiting sodomy.
“There is no legislation recognising LGBTIs or protecting the right to a non-heterosexual orientation and gender identity,” another organisation, Rock of Hope, said in a statement.
A small landlocked country, eSwatini has been ruled since 1986 by King Mswati III, who has been criticised for an extravagant lifestyle and regularly accused of human rights violations.
The king, who can dissolve parliament, the government and appoint or dismiss judges, also commands the police and army.
Political parties, though theoretically permitted, cannot participate in the elections.
In late June 2021, pro-democracy protests descended into violence resulting in the deaths of several people.