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Namibia high court overturns ban on gay sex

LGBTIQA+ rights activists in the African nation of Namibia are celebrating after the country’s high court overturned a ban on gay sex, ruling the law as unconstitutional.

Namibia’s laws against homosexual activity were inherited from South Africa when it gained independence in 1990. While South Africa has moved ahead decriminalising homosexuality, it allowed same-sex marriage and created antidiscrimination laws around gender and sexuality, there has been little progress in Namibia.

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While people have rarely been charged in recent years under Namibia’s law, activist have argued that by remaining on the law books it promotes discrimination, including police violence.

Rights activist Friedel Dausab who brought the case, said he hoped the ruling would bring families together.

“I feel elated. I’m so happy. This really is a landmark judgment, not just for me, but for our democracy.”

“I’m sitting next to my mum and we’re hoping that this message filters through to all families, so that kids are no longer estranged.” Dausab said.

The judgment was made by three high court judges who said the current laws promotes prejudices.

“What threat does a gay man pose to society, and who must be protected against him?” the judgment said. “We are of the firm view that the enforcement of private moral views of a section of a community (even if they form the majority of that community), which are based to a large extent on nothing more than prejudice, cannot qualify as such a legitimate purpose.”

UNAIDS welcome the decision

The decision has been welcomed by human rights and aid groups who have argued that the laws have made it harder to tackle HIV rates in the country.

“This decision by the High Court of Namibia is a powerful step towards a more inclusive Namibia,” said Anne Githuku-Shongwe, UNAIDS Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

“The colonial-era common law that criminalised same-sex sexual relations perpetuated an environment of discrimination and fear, often hindering access to essential healthcare services for LGBTQ+ individuals. To protect everyone’s health, we need to protect everyone’s human rights.”

“By decriminalizing same-sex relationships, Namibia creates a safer environment for LGBTQ+ communities,” said Ms. Githuku-Shongwe. “This allows them to access vital healthcare services, contributing to the global goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.”

UNAIDS say they urge all countries to follow Namibia’s lead, remove punitive laws, and tackle prejudices against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

Since 2019, Botswana, Gabon, Angola, Bhutan, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Singapore, Saint Kitts and Nevis, the Cook Islands, Mauritius, and Dominica have all repealed laws that criminalized LGBTQ+ people.

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