Namibia court says laws banning gay sex unconstitutional

Namibia court says laws banning gay sex unconstitutional
Namibia court says laws banning gay sex unconstitutional

A high court in Namibia has declared two colonial-era laws that criminalized same-sex acts between men to be unconstitutional.

Namibia’s high court on Friday struck down two colonial-era laws that criminalize same-sex relationships, in a landmark win for the LGBTQ+ community.

Rights campaigners say that, although convictions are relatively rare, they have perpetuated discrimination against the LGBTQ community and caused gay men to live in fear of arrest.

What the ruling means

“The common law offense of sodomy is declared unconstitutional and invalid,” the court in the capital, Windhoek, wrote.  It also declared unconstitutional the law banning “unnatural sexual offenses.”

Namibian activist Friedel Dausab brought the case, with support from the UK-based non-governmental organization Human Dignity Trust.

“Because of this decision, I no longer feel like a criminal on the run in my own country simply because of who I am,” Dausab was cited as saying by the French AFP news agency. 

Namibia inherited the laws upon gaining independence from South Africa in 1990, although same-sex acts between males had initially been criminalized under colonial rule. The crime was not codified but was an offense under Roman-Dutch common law, which applied to colonies that were part of the Dutch colonial empire.

Since then, South Africa has decriminalized same-sex sexual activity and has become the only country on the African continent to allow LGBTQ+ couples to marry, enter civil unions, and adopt children.

Only a small number of African countries have legalized same-sex relationships, and the verdict comes at a time of growing intolerance to LGBTQ+ rights in southern Africa.

Uganda last year introduced one of the world’s strictest anti-LGBTQ+ laws, including the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality.”

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