Historic! Supreme Court of Namibia recognises international same-sex marriages

Namibia must recognise the marriages of two same-sex couples

Two couples – Johann Potgieter and Daniel Digashu, and Anita Seiler-Lilles and Anette Seiler – will finally have their marriages recognised in Namibia (Photo: supplied)

In a significant victory for LGBTIQ+ equality, the Supreme Court of Namibia has ruled that same-sex marriages registered outside of Namibia must be recognised.

The case concerned two married couples: Namibian Johann Potgieter and South African Daniel Digashu, and Namibian Anette Seiler and German Anita Seiler-Lilles.

In both instances, Digashu and Seiler-Lilles were denied residency in Namibia by the Home Affairs Ministry because their marriages, which were concluded in South Africa and Germany, are “not recognised” under Namibian law.

According to The Namibian, four out of the five Supreme Court justices ruled on Tuesday that the non-Namibian partners in the marriages must be acknowledged as the legal spouses of their Namibian partners.

The court found that the ministry’s policy of excluding spouses in a “validly concluded” same-sex marriage “infringes both the interrelated rights to dignity and equality of the appellants.”

The decision means that the non-Namibian spouses must be given the same residence rights in Namibia that spouses in opposite-sex marriages are entitled to under the Immigration Act.

The ruling could pave the way for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Namibia

“I am utterly ecstatic about the judgment,” said Digashu about the conclusion to his six-year legal battle. “Love has won, and this means the world, not only to our families as litigants but, I’m sure, also to the LGBTQI+ people in the country who have been showing up for us and the cause. You are all seen and appreciated, and this one is a win for all of us.”

Seiler-Lilles shed tears of joy over the court ruling. “The tension from the past seven years has eased, and I can now call Namibia my home. I am so happy! Seven years of struggle are over, and we have not only won for ourselves but for so many other people as well,” she said in a statement.

Anna Mmolai-Chalmers from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which supported the couples’ legal challenge, welcomed the landmark decision.

“I am so relieved that Daniel and Anita finally get to be with their loved ones without worrying about being separated from their families. I am sorry that they had to wait so long,” said Mmolai-Chalmers.

There are hopes that the ruling could pave the way for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Namibia.

The decision comes less than two months after the same court ruled against a same-sex couple’s bid to ensure that their son, born via surrogacy in South Africa, is entitled to Namibian citizenship by descent.

Consensual “sodomy” between men is still illegal in Namibia and could be used to prosecute LGBTQ+ individuals, although no such cases have been reported since the country’s independence in 1990.

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