Namibia: Drag event cancelled amid anti-LGBTQ+ backlash


Drag Night Namibia is a celebration of queer and drag culture in Namibia (Photo: Drag Night Namibia / Facebook)

The organisers of Drag Night Namibia have made the difficult decision to cancel their event due to concerns for the safety of the LGBTQ+ community.

“Our hearts are heavy as we share the news that our upcoming show cannot proceed due to safety concerns arising from recent events,” stated the organisers on Twitter.

“The violent and negative response to the Supreme Court verdict has forced us to prioritize the well-being of our performers and audience.”

Drag Night Namibia is a celebration of queer and drag culture in Namibia. The organisers have promised to return “bigger, stronger, safer and more free than ever before.”

The Supreme Court of Namibia recently ruled on May 16th that the state must recognise same-sex marriages that are registered in countries where they are legal.

This decision was hailed as a historic step forward for the country, which still criminalises homosexuality.

However, the ruling has sparked a disturbing backlash from religious leaders and politicians, who have stirred up anti-gay sentiments and claimed that the court is imposing “un-African” values on Namibians.

A WhatsApp group called “Namibia National Anti-Gay Demonstration” was created, with notable individuals joining to support a demonstration against the court ruling.

On Sunday, the Namibia Equal Rights Movement issued a warning to the LGBTQ+ community: “We have received reports that homophobes are targeting LGBTQI+ events and safe spaces, such as the Brewers Market, and encouraging people to ‘attack and castrate’ queer persons. We encourage our community to stay vigilant and cautious, please take safety measures.”

The organisation added that “These reports arise from a group chat founded and supported by church leaders, Swapo and NEFF officials.”

It has been reported that the governing party, Swapo, is planning to take legislative action in parliament in an attempt to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision. However, experts argue that parliament lacks the power to do so.

On Wednesday, Dr Alfredo Hengari, the press secretary to President Hage Geingob, emphasised the importance of respectful dialogue.

“President Geingob promotes a culture of tolerance and respectful disagreement,” he stated, noting the president’s  belief in the separation of powers.

Consensual “sodomy” between men is still illegal in Namibia, and LGBTQ+ individuals could be prosecuted under this law, although no such cases have been reported since the country gained independence in 1990.

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