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Amnesty International is concerned about the safety of LGBTQ+ people in Namibia

Amnesty International is concerned about the safety of LGBTQ+ people in Namibia
Amnesty International is concerned about the safety of LGBTQ+ people in Namibia

 


Amnesty International has called on authorities in Namibia to ensure the safety of the LGBTQ+ community as a court prepares to rule on a case challenging laws criminalizing homosexual behaviour.

In November 2020, Namibia's Law Reform Commission recommended that laws related to sodomy be struck down as they relate to intimate same-sex practices between gay men.

However, Namibia's parliament has been slow to repeal these laws, prompting gay activist Friedel Dausab to sue the government on the grounds that the sodomy law is inconsistent with Namibia's constitution.

The High Court of Namibia will rule on the matter on Friday.

“There have been a lot of laws that have been on the statute books for many years, mostly since before independence, many of which really no longer make sense and they are simply not in line with modern times,” said Etuna Joshua, chairman of the Commission for Law Reform and Development in the Ministry of Justice.

Linda Baumann, an LGBTQ+ activist, said the community has taken extra security measures to ensure its safety during and after Friday's proceedings.

Baumann said Namibia has seen an increase in violence against LGBTQ+ people, which she says is directly linked to a Supreme Court ruling that said marriages between same-sex couples performed abroad were valid.

She said that since that power, religious and faith-based groups have incited violence against the LGBTQ+ community.

“Amnesty [International] It's not an exaggeration,” Baumann said. “What we're doing as a movement is alerting ourselves to the issue of safety and security, because we have anti-groups. … We have also seen murders of LGBT people in six months. Six people, six months”.

A local daily newspaper recently published a report on a string of murders where the victims were LGBTQ+ people. However, some critics say Namibia has a high homicide rate overall and the murders cannot be considered hate crimes.

Mercedez Von Cloete, a transgender activist who successfully sued the state over a transphobic attack at the hands of a police officer seven years ago, said the community is at risk of targeted violence if the sodomy law is overturned by the Supreme Court.

“It was targeted violence as a result of hate speech, not just political, but also religious, as well as mob organizing that has made LGBTQ people feel unsafe, especially in the last two months. And I applaud Amnesty International for that they were able to at least raise an alarm”.

Amnesty International human rights lawyer Mandipa Machacha told VOA that “while Namibia has traditionally been tolerant of LGBT people compared to other countries [in Africa]there has always been a certain level of hostility, and the situation worsened significantly after the 2023 decision, which recognized same-sex unions.”

She said Amnesty International fears Friday's decision could fuel homophobia against members of the LGBTQ+ community.

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