Namibia: Government Oppressing LGBTIQ+ People “Like Apartheid”


As the government of Namibia moves to ban same-sex marriage, the country’s former Ombudsman John Walters has compared its oppression of LGBTIQ+ people to apartheid.

“It’s the same people who suffered under that colonial repressive legislation. And now we are starting all over again, prohibiting love between people of the same sex… and out of love, obviously, marriage,” Walters told The Namibian.

“And now we have two people of the same sex, who may not marry, or may not love, or may not do that. I find it ridiculous,” Walters continued.

Namibia was governed by South Africa until 1990, which imposed apartheid policies on the country that included banning interracial relationships and marriages as “immoral” and punishable with prison sentences.

Namibia’s Office of the Ombudsman is mandated to resolve and investigate public complaints and systemic issues regarding human rights violations, maladministration, and environmental protection.

Walters, who was Ombudsman from 2004 to 2021, made the comments following the news that Home Affairs Minister Albert Kawana introduced a bill this week to explicitly ban same-sex marriages. This announcement came just days after the High Court decriminalised homosexuality in a landmark decision.

According to New Era, the bill seeks to update the solemnisation and recognition of marriages in Namibia, including the definition of spouses. If enacted, it will ban any same-sex marriages in the country, even if they were passed in countries where they are legal.

“It is imperative that legislative reforms be put in place to make it categorically clear and beyond any shadow of a doubt that same-sex marriages should not be recognised in Namibia because they are contrary to cultural norms,” said Kawana.

It appears that the draft law is intended to supersede a similar private member’s bill passed by Parliament in September 2023. That legislation has yet to be signed into law by President Nangolo Mbumba.

While same-sex marriage is not currently legal in Namibia, these anti-LGBTIQ+ bills are in response to a May 2023 ruling by the country’s Supreme Court ordering the state to recognise same-sex marriages concluded abroad, which would grant residence to foreign same-sex spouses of Namibians.

The ruling sparked backlash from religious leaders and politicians, leading to a series of protests and the subsequent actions by MPs to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision.

LGBTQIA+ activist Omar van Reenen from Equal Namibia vowed to fight the new bill should it become law.

“The only light of day the anti-same-sex marriage bill will see is the halls of the Supreme Court. We will challenge this bill in court,” they tweeted. Van Reenen also called on the international community to impose visa restrictions on MPs who vote to pass the bill.

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