There is no greater document in this world as important as an identification document. Be it in the form of a birth certificate, national documentation or a passport, an ID Document is used as a key determinant of global recognition.
Its power is endless. It sets precedent to the enjoyment of basic human rights such as applying for an education, your travel movements in your society or the global community and can be a hindrance between you and employment, housing, communication. The holistic dignity of a human being can be placed in an ID – because there is a constant need for institutions to recognize your true being.
While the document bears great weight in every human being, its practice is hindered by the pulsating patriarchal culture – where the focal empowerment of privilege men is enhanced through the oppression of those who don’t fall into the gaze of privileged masculinity. This in turn economically, psychologically and politically marginalizes the lives of millions of people worldwide, inhibiting self-governance and non-recognition.
As became the case for Ricki Kgositau. A trans woman whose gender marker on the national ID document, did not reflect her being. More than an inconvenience it also bore emotional distress and increase her vulnerability to abuse and violence, at took away her fundamental right to dignity. Taking the government to task, Kgositau, represented by Human Rights Lawyer Lesego Nchunga filled an application requesting that the High Court of Botswana orders the government to change the gender marker on Kgositau’s identity document (Omang) from male to female.
The application included supporting evidence, including an affidavit from Kgositau’s mother, sibling and relatives, as well as psychological and medical evidence noting that her innate gender identity is and had since an early age been female. Further, legal documentation noted that the applicant noted that sex encompasses more than chromosomal factors and the identity document should grant precedence to her holistic gender identity, which only became apparent after Kgositau’s birth.
The case was heard yesterday at the Botswana High court, where High Court Judge Dambe gave a ruling reflective of Kgositau in receipt of enjoying her human rights. Judge Dambe ordered that the gender marking on all her official documents must be in line with her gender identity, citing that:
The Registrar of Births and Deaths amend the birth certificate of Miss Kgositau to show that she is female and not male within 7 seven days.
The Director of the Registrar of National Registration issue an Identity Document (Omang) identifying her as female within 21 days.
Not only is this a win for Kgositau, but this landmark case which was witnessed by the public through media’s lens proves a commitment by Botswana’s legislation to apply human rights to every person. In March 2016, the Botswana court of appeal gave an important judgement on a different matter which spoke on application of human rights to every person. “Members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community, although no doubt a small minority, and unacceptable to some on religious or other grounds, form part of the rich diversity of any nation and are fully entitled in Botswana, as in any other progressive state, to the constitutional protection of their dignity” – (excerpt from Attorney General vs. Thuto Rammoge & 19 others)
It further builds on the holistic inclusion of the TI community in Botswana, coming from another successful ruling for trans man on September 29th this year, where the court held that the refusal to change the applicants gender marker was unreasonable and violated his rights to dignity, privacy, freedom of expression, equal protection of the law, freedom from discrimination and freedom from inhumane and degrading treatment.
Judge Nthomiwa who presided the case noted that recognition of the applicant’s gender identity lies at the fundamental right to dignity. Nthomiwa further stated that gender identity constitutes the core of one’s sense of being and remains an integral of a person’s identity.
Through Kgositau’s justice, as well as the previous ruling of September 29th can be regarded as a beckoning towards an inclusive society in Botswana. the vision of a richly diverse and inclusive nation where enjoyment of basic human rights is realized in the near future.