The Kingdom of Eswatini is a beautiful country with very conservative values and was formerly known as Swaziland.
In Eswatini, eSwatini Sexual and Gender Minorities (ESGM) was founded as one of the few advocacy groups lobbying for basic legal recognition and protection for LGBT+ people in this African kingdom.
Homosexuality is illegal in Swaziland (eSwatini) and LGBT+ people face extreme levels of discrimination and harassment, in part due to the stigma of HIV/AIDS. The conservative kingdom is ruled by King Mswati III who has previously described homosexuality as “satanic”.
But the organization itself is now fighting to exist after it was prohibited from registering on the country’s registrar of companies in September last year.
According to All Africa, the registrar argued that ESGM’s purpose was unlawful because same-sex sexual acts were illegal in the kingdom. The right to equality did not apply to LGBT+ people, the registrar said because sexual orientation and sex are not mentioned explicitly in the eSwatini constitution.
The group has now taken the fight to the country’s highest court as it challenges the registrar’s decision, arguing that the registrar’s refusal violated ESGM members’ rights to dignity, to associate and express themselves freely, to be treated equally and not to be discriminated against. They claim the registrar misrepresented the law and that his refusal to register ESGM violated its members’ constitutional rights.
LGBT people in Eswatini regularly face societal discrimination and harassment. As such, most choose to remain in the closet or move to neighboring South Africa, where same-sex marriage is legal. Additionally, LGBT+ people face a very high rate of HIV/AIDS infections. Eswatini has the highest prevalence of HIV in the world, with reportedly 27% of the Swati population being infected).
Despite all this, Eswatini’s first pride parade was held in June 2018.