Namibian Court Strikes Down Law Criminalising Same-Sex Relationships

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A top Namibian court on Friday struck down the African country’s colonial-era laws criminalising same-sex relationships, in a victory for the LGBTQ community.

The high court in the capital, Windhoek, declared the crimes of “sodomy” and “unnatural sexual offences” as “unconstitutional and invalid” in a ruling hailed by LGBTQ rights groups.

“We are not persuaded that in a democratic society such as ours… it is reasonably justifiable to make an activity criminal just because a segment, maybe a majority, of the citizenry consider it to be unacceptable,” the judges wrote.

The judgement overturns rarely enforced laws dating back to 1927, which Namibia inherited from the colonial era but maintained after gaining independence from South Africa in 1990.

“Because of this decision, I no longer feel like a criminal on the run in my own country simply because of who I am,” said Friedel Dausab, the activist who brought the case.

London-based Human Dignity Trust called the ruling “historic”.

“LGBT Namibians can now look to a brighter future,” said its chief executive, Tea Braun.

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The verdict comes against a backdrop of growing intolerance towards LGBTQ rights in southern Africa.

While a handful of African countries have legalised same-sex relationships, South Africa remains the sole African nation which allows gay marriage, legalised in 2006.

The United Nations AIDS program, UNAIDS, said the ruling marked a “significant victory for equality and human rights”.

“This decision… is a powerful step towards a more inclusive Namibia,” said Anne Githuku-Shongwe, UNAIDS regional director for East and Southern Africa.

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