Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, has refuted claims circulating online alleging that elevated estrogen levels in the city’s water are causing an increase in homosexuality.
The misinformation, asserting that “Oestrogen in Windhoek water leads to rise in HOMOSEXUALITY,” was shared anonymously on the Facebook group “Politics Watch Namibia (Uncensored)” on January 2.
It alleged that the wastewater used for drinking water production contains high levels of estrogen, which cannot be removed through purification processes.
The post stated that “oestrogen is the female sex hormone” and “can cause effects such as feminisation and infertility.”
Scientific Rebuttal and Criticism
The City of Windhoek responded, labelling the claims “misleading and inaccurate” and maintaining its commitment to water quality and safety standards.
“The drinking water in Windhoek meets the World Health Organization’s standards for oestrogen levels and does not pose any health risk to the population,” it insisted.
It went on to add, that “oestrogen in water has no scientific link to sexual orientation or behaviour” and that its water “does not contain levels of oestrogen that could lead to the alleged health effects of feminisation or infertility.”
Linking feminisation with homosexuality is a longstanding misconception that has been used to create hysteria and anti-LGBTQ sentiment.
Over the years, right-wing conspiracy politicians around the world have also made assertions that oestrogen in drinking water is leading to an increase in homosexuality, claims that have no factual or scientific basis.
Context of LGBTQ+ Rights in Namibia
Namibia witnessed intensified debates on LGBTQ+ rights following a Supreme Court ruling on May 16, mandating the state to recognise same-sex marriages registered in countries where they are legal.
This decision triggered homophobic reactions from religious leaders, politicians, and anti-LGBTQ+ protests. The drinking water social media post seems to exploit this inflamed context to further fuel anti-LGBTQ sentiment.
Namibian LGBTQ+ activist Omar van Reenen was critical of the city for giving visibility to the fake news social media post.
“It baffles me that an entire municipality played into hysteria of homosexuality,” they tweeted, arguing that this was “fanning the flames of ignorance and bigotry.”
Consensual sex between men remains illegal in Namibia, with at least 64 arrests reported by police between 2003 and 2019, although none of these cases were ultimately prosecuted by the authorities.