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Namibia: Namibia's High Court Strikes Down Laws Criminalising Gay Sex

Namibia’s high court on Friday struck down colonial-era laws criminalising same-sex acts between men in a victory for the LGBTQ+ community in the southern African country.

The court in the capital Windhoek declared the crimes of sodomy and “unnatural sexual offences” as unconstitutional and invalid.

“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.

In May last year, Namibia‘s Supreme Court recognised same-sex marriages contracted abroad between citizens and foreign spouses, but gay sex remained a crime.

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

John Nakuta, a law professor at the University of Namibia, said the court’s order can be appealed by the Namibian government within 21 days.

‘Historic’ ruling

While laws against homosexuality are rarely been applied, rights groups hailed Friday’s court decision as a victory.

“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, which helped Dausab file the case, said the ruling was historic.

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

Growing intolerance

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 to allow 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.

“UNAIDS urges all countries to follow Namibia’s lead. A more just, equitable and kind world is a healthier one for everyone.”

(with AFP)

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