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Photo source: Global Information Network - Photo: 2024

LGBTQ+ Activists Win Landmark Judgment from Namibian High Court

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK | 8 July 2024 (IDN) — Namibia’s high court has overturned a law that criminalized gay sex. The ruling is a victory for LGBTQ+ activists after a number of setbacks in the battle for rights in African countries in recent years.

Namibia inherited a law banning sodomy and “unnatural offenses” when it gained independence from South Africa in 1990. While the ban was rarely enforced, activists said it contributed to discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, including violence by the police.

Friedel Dausab, the Namibian LGBTQ+ activist who brought the case, said he felt elated. “I’m so happy. This really is a landmark judgment, not just for me, but for our democracy.”

He added: “I’m sitting next to my mum and we’re hoping that this message filters through to all families, so that kids are no longer estranged.”

The judgment, made by three high court judges, said the laws amounted to unfair discrimination under Namibia’s constitution, noting that the same consensual sexual conduct was not criminalized if it was between a man and a woman.

“What threat does a gay man pose to society, and who must be protected against him?” the court said in its ruling. “We are of the firm view that the enforcement of private moral views of a section of a community (even if they form the majority of that community), which are based to a large extent on nothing more than prejudice, cannot qualify as such a legitimate purpose.”

Namibia third most tolerant on the question of how people felt about having gay neighbors

It was not clear if Namibia’s government would appeal the ruling. Officials in the attorney general’s office were not available to comment.

In a pan-African survey of 34 countries conducted between 2019 and 2021, Namibia ranked as the third most tolerant on the question of how people felt about having gay neighbors, with 64% of those responding saying either that they would like it or not care about it.

However, two high-profile court cases have driven a conservative backlash. In March 2023, the Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s decision to grant citizenship to the children of a gay couple born via surrogacy abroad. Then, in May that year, it recognized same-sex marriages conducted abroad between Namibian citizens and foreign spouses.

In response, the country’s parliament passed a bill that defined marriage as “between persons of the opposite sex”, although it has yet to be signed into law by the president.

Activist groups said that since that decision, the number of hate crimes have risen. Six LGBTQ+ Namibians have been killed since the bill was passed, according to the campaign group Equal Namibia.

Of the 64 countries globally that criminalize same-sex relations, 31 are in Africa, according to Human Dignity Trust, a UK legal charity that supported Mr. Dausab. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo source: Global Information Network

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