President Hage Geingob has elected to remain silent on the recent Supreme Court ruling recognising same-sex marriages conducted beyond Namibia’s borders, but traditional leaders have vehemently opposed the ruling.
On Wednesday, Presidential spokesperson Alfredo Hengari promised journalists that the Presidency would issue a detailed statement ventilating their position on the ruling which has been lauded and loathed in almost equal measure.
Upon following up to the promise, the Presidency had nothing to say.
“No comment,” Hengari stated when quizzed about the president’s stance.
Following the ground-breaking decision by the Supreme Court to recognise same-sex marriages endorsed outside Namibia, many dissenting voices have emerged as churches, the ruling party and others have condemned the judgement.
In fact, they want to stand as a united front to oppose the verdict.
The ruling, which marked a significant step towards LGBTQ+ rights in the country, has revealed deep divisions within society regarding the recognition of same-sex unions.
On Wednesday, the Council of Traditional Leaders joined the chorus, condemning what they termed “same-sex marriage and LGBTQ campaign”.
“The court with this ruling has shown utmost disregard for the essence of our traditions, dignified culture and values,” the council’s chairperson, chief Immanuel /Gaseb said in a heavily-worded missive.
The council prides itself as the custodian of culture, values and traditions of the respective Namibian communities.
“We regard it as our responsibility and obligation to safeguard the ethical norms, cultural and communal values of people. We shall not remain silent on such immoral issues. We shall rise at whatever cost,” the traditionalist said.
He stated that what is viewed as human rights in the form of LGBTQ+ rights was not “the kind of freedom Namibian people had in mind when they fought for the liberation of this country”.
“If we surrender to this wave of immorality in our communities, it will be a betrayal to our sons and daughters who died for the liberation of our country. We call on all Namibians, Africans and the world at large to join us in condemning same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ campaign in the strongest terms it deserves.”
Eight northern traditional authorities added their voice against what they termed an “interference of Western culture into Namibian culture”.
They also called on the head of state and parliament to nullify the decision, and the Supreme Court to revise its decision.
The matter stemmed from the residency applications of a German woman who married a Namibian woman in Germany, and a South African man who married a Namibian man in South Africa, the only country on the continent allowing same-sex marriage. In a judgement delivered last week, four judges declared that the denial of an official recognition by the Ministry of Home Affairs to same-sex marriages, conducted outside Namibia, violates the constitutional rights to equality and dignity.
The court declared that the marriages of the two couples should be acknowledged in Namibia.
Furthermore, the court affirmed that the non-Namibian partner in each union should be recognised as the spouse of their Namibian partner under the Immigration Control Act of the country.
As a result of the judgement, non-Namibian spouses in same-sex marriages are granted the same rights of residence in Namibia which are typically granted to spouses in heterosexual marriages.
Allies opposed to the LGBTQI+ community have been mobilising through WhatsApp groups to organise protests against the verdict.
One such group, titled “Namibia national anti-gay marriage demonstration,” had close to 1 000 members by Sunday. It advised its members to sign a petition.
The petition’s purpose is to urge the government to enact legislation prohibiting same-sex marriages in Namibia.
Meanwhile, activist Omar van Reenen recently told New Era, “Yes, the power to legalise such unions does lay with parliament, but the power to ensure all Namibians are treated equal under the Constitution lies with the Supreme Court.
“The fact of the matter is that same-sex couples who marry abroad are not granted the same rights that heterosexual couples receive. And that unequal treatment is unconstitutional. It is the Supreme Court’s job to ensure that all minority groups are free from discrimination, and parliament’s lack of action to create a just society shows how important it is for the courts to step in when our laws continue to marginalise a vulnerable group.”
Van Reenen added that since independence, parliament has shown little care to end the human rights’ abuses queer Namibians face.
“They’ve pushed the Law Reform and Development Commission’s (LRDC) report to repeal the sodomy law under the rug. Parliament has allowed ministers to abuse public policy at the cost of taxpayers, and separate children from their parents, just because their fathers are gay. And parliament has ignored the Ombudsman’s draft Hate Speech Bill. So, parliament has shown its lack of care for sexual and gender minorities in Namibia,” stressed
said Van Reenen, the founder of Equal Namibia.