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Historic Court Ruling in Namibia Legalizing homosexuality

by Melanie Nathan, June 21, 2024.

A top Namibian court on Friday struck down the African country's colonial-era laws outlawing homosexuality and effectively same-sex relationships, in a victory for the LGBTQ community. In this historic ruling the Namibian High Court of Windhoek has ruled that the law criminalizing sodomy is unconstitutional under the Constitution of Namibia.

"The common law offense of sodomy is declared unconstitutional and invalid," the high court in the capital, Windhoek, wrote in its verdict. It also declared unconstitutional the offense of "unnatural sexual offenses".

"We are not persuaded that in a democratic society such as ours... it is reasonably justifiable to make an activity criminal just because a segment, maybe a majority, of the citizenry consider it to be unacceptable," the judges wrote.

The judgement overturns laws dating back to 1927, which Namibia, previously known as South west Africa, inherited from the colonial era but maintained after gaining independence from South Africa in 1990.

The case was brought by Namibian activist Friedel Dausab with the support of UK-based non-governmental organization Human Dignity Trust. Dausab told Reuters after the court's decision he was "just happy". "It's a great day for Namibia," he said. "It won't be a crime to love anymore."

As noted by OUT PROUD, a close associate advocacy organization of African Human Rights Coalition, " This landmark judgment reaffirms the fundamental rights of Namibian citizens, regardless of sexual orientation , and reflects our nations's commitment to upholding international human rights standards."

In his capacity as Head of International Relations, for OUT PROUD Tony McPherson, noted: "At OUT&PROUD Namibia, we commend this historic decision which underscores the obligation of the state to protect the rights of all its citizens under international human rights law. This victory is a testament to the resilience and dedication of the Namibian LGBTQ+ community, activists, supporters, and allies who have tirelessly campaigned for equality over the years. "Since 2021, OUT&PROUD Namibia has been at the forefront of this advocacy effort, both domestically and internationally."

"We extend our deepest gratitude to all Namibian activists who have bravely championed this cause, often under challenging circumstances. We also acknowledge the invaluable support of our donors, local NGOs, and organizations who have steadfastly stood with us throughout this journey, despite security threats, persecution fears, and hate crimes." "This moment belongs to the activists on the ground who have courageously fought for justice and equality."

African Human Rights Coalition (AHRC):

"We share in the jubilation of the LGBTI  community and celebration of Namibia as the High Court of Windhoek, in an historic ruling, strikes down the colonial era anti-sodomy law, ruling it unconstitutional. (Full article HERE.)

We congratulate and commend the Plaintiff and all Namibia's LGBTQI+ community, with a special emphasis on all the courageous activists, who for decades have stood up against these draconian laws, and the untold harms the law underpinned.

LGBTQI+ Namibians faced, not only untold discrimination in all aspects of their lives, but also persecution, and violence, and yet never lost sight of the goal achieved on this historic day.  

We Also commend the Windhoek Court which stood independently of government forces to rule justly and in absolute full recognition of Namibia's Constitution.  Today is also a victory for Democracy, separation of Government branches and global human rights.

 At the same time AHRC cautions that it is likely that a backlash against this ruling could impact the LGBTQI+ community in Namibia, as a vast majority of Namibians are still subject to the stranglehold of religious zealots and taboos based on  anti-LGBT propaganda, misunderstanding and educational failures.

Namibian Courts have ruled against same-sex couples in the past, and It is our hope that this ruling will set a trajectory for change in all aspects of LGBT people lives.

The country has an opportunity to rally against homophobia, which does not simply disappear when laws change, and to grow in strength as a community striving for full equality for all.

To this end Government participation is critical. It is time for Namibia to join the nations of true equals.

We urge Namibia's LGBTI community to remain vigilante in its jubilation for safety purposes.

This victory must also be commended in the context of a trend on the continent of Africa where anti-homosexuality laws and penalties are being enhanced rather than being abolished, causing a surge in the violence and forced displacement of LGBTQI+ people on the continent.

This unfortunate situation seems hopeless to the North of Namibia, yet courageous activists continue to push for change.

We urge the Global community to unify in this endeavor and religious leaders to do much more to combat the harms caused in the name of your respective religions." (Melanie Nathan, ED AHRC).

NOTE: Melanie Nathan, Executive Director of African Human Rights Coalition is a qualified Country Conditions Expert Witness in the U.S. and Global Courts providing written reports and oral testimony for LGBTQI+ asylum seekers from 20 African Countries to include Namibia. Melanie participated as the Country Conditions Expert in a recently won case in Iceland, where Namibian same-sex married couple received asylum. Melanie notes the eradication of criminalizing laws does not mitigate the persecution some asylum seekers are subjected to, and hence it is important to treat each case uniquely, all requiring the testimony of qualified experts.


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PIC: The Windhoek Namibian Supreme Court Building The "M" can be restored in Supreme!

Melanie Nathan is a Country Conditions Expert witness in the U.S. and Global Courts, for asylum seekers who have fled Namibia and twenty other African countries where anti-LGBT laws continue to trend.


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