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Namibia High Court overturns anti-sodomy laws in historic ruling

Namibia supreme court building Windhoek
Colin N. Perkel/Shutterstock

The Court found the laws unfairly targeted gay men.

Namibia’s High Court found two Colonial-era anti-sodomy laws prejudicially targeted gay men and were unconstitutional in a historic ruling handed down on Friday.

The case was filed in June of 2022 by LGBTQ+ activist Friedel Laurentius Dausab and was heard by the High Court of Namibia in October of 2023. Dausab, who was assisted by the Human Dignity Trust (HDT), argued the anti-LGBTQ+ laws “unfairly and irrationally discriminate against him and other gay men on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and thus infringe his constitution right to equality, dignity, privacy, freedom of expression and freedom of association.”

The three-judge panel acknowledged in its ruling that same-sex sexual relations are not necessarily popular in the culturally conservative country. Still, it declared that “the enforcement of the private moral views of a section of the community (even if they form the majority of that community), which are based to a large extent on nothing more than prejudice” and that the act of criminalizing such relations for gay men “poses a greater threat to the fabric of society as a whole than tolerance.”

“I challenged these laws as a committed activist because I was personally and acutely aware that criminalization was a clear obstacle to my living a full, open, honest life. I can also attest that the sodomy offenses hindered the prevention of HIV infections and access to life-saving treatment, and made gay men like me easy targets for abuse,’ Dausab said in a statement provided to The Advocate. “But most of all, because of this decision, I no longer feel like a criminal on the run in my own country simply because of who I am.”

“I am delighted that Friedel has succeeded in his case against the government of Namibia and proud that our team at the Trust has played a part in his journey to justice,” Téa Braun, chief executive at HDT, said in a statement. “Huge credit goes to him, the legal team on the ground and the activist community in Namibia who have supported him. These combined and concerted efforts not only mean that LGBT Namibians can look to a brighter future where their rights to love freely are recognized, but also bring much needed and renewed energy to other decriminalization efforts across Africa.”

While other African nations like Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, and South Africa have decriminalized same-sex sexual relations, other countries remain dangerous for the LGBTQ+ community.

A gay man who was the victim of a violent attack because of his sexual identity was granted asylum in the U.S. after he had to flee Ghana.

In Uganda, Steven Kabuye, an activist and editor with Coloured Voices Media Foundation – Truth to LGBTQ Uganda, was the victim of an attack by a man wielding a knife while riding a motorcycle. According to a police spokesperson, Patrick Onyango, one of the helmeted men jumped off the bike and swung the knife at Kabuye focusing specifically on his neck.

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