Tshepo Ricki Kgositau, the executive director of South African-based Gender Dynamix, an organization that advocates for human rights of transgender and gender diverse people, said she has since a very early age identified as a woman.

Kgositau asked the High Court to change the gender marker on her identity document from ‘male’ to ‘female’. She said that the incorrect reflection of her gender on her identity document was causing her emotional distress and increased her vulnerability to abuse and violence.

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The application includes supporting evidence from her mother, siblings and relatives, as well as psychological and medical evidence to the effect that her “innate gender identity is, and has since an early age, always been female and that her family has embraced her and loved her as a woman”.

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A conservative nation of 2 million people, Botswana has been reluctant to fully acknowledge the rights of the LGBT community. Despite this reluctance in 2014, Justice Terrence Rannoane overturned a government ban on a gay rights lobbying group, ruling that the Lesbians, Gays and Bisexuals of Botswana (LEGABIBO) would be allowed to register and campaign for changes to anti-gay legislation. This was a rare victory for African gay rights campaigners on a continent where homosexuality remains highly contentious.

“In a democratic society such as ours, freedom of expression, assembly and association are important values duly protected by our constitution,” Rannoane said. “The decision to refuse LEGABIBO registration was taken under the mistaken belief that the applicants intended to engage in homosexual practice, which is a crime,” he added.

However, he reiterated that it was still illegal to engage in homosexual acts.

Kgositau’s case has been postponed to December and it could likely force a conservative society to address the rights of the gay, lesbian and transgender community.