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Lawyer addresses key LGBT ruling

Publish date: 02 December 2019
Issue Number: 852
Diary: IBA Legalbrief Africa
Category: Zimbabwe

Rights lawyer Tashwill Esterhuizen (in a Mail & Guardian commentary) has addressed a ‘scathing’ ruling by the High Court (Bulawayo) which last week ordered the Ministry of Home Affairs and the police to pay transgender woman Ricky Nathanson $1 000 as compensation for her unlawful arrest in 2004. As previously reported in Legalbrief Today, the 53-year-old activist was arrested for allegedly using a women's toilet at a city hotel. Police believed Nathanson, who was wearing make-up, was a male. Justice Francis Bere rejected the complainant's demand for US$2.7m, saying 'the quantification of damages is not meant to enrich the victim but to try to salvage some kind of dignity for the pain endured'. He said the arrest was a violation of her constitutional right as a citizen. 'For three days, the plaintiff was not only deprived of her liberty, but was subjected to forced anatomical examination in the most crude and naked manner by adventurous members of the police,' he said. Esterhuizen, of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, said Bere’s ruling was a victory for the advancement of the rights of transgender people and Zimbabweans more broadly. Esterhuizen who assisted in the case, said the judgment makes a significant contribution to the discourse that being transgender, and having the ability to express individuality in ways that one feels comfortable with, is a normal and important component of humanity. ‘The decision outrightly rejects any notion of homogeny and instead encourages public dialogue about being more just, caring and tolerant towards difference and minorities,’ he added.

Full Mail & Guardian commentary