Namibia’s highest court recognizes same-sex marriages from elsewhere.


Despite the fact that same-sex marriage is still illegal in Namibia, the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the government must recognize the unions of same-sex couples who married in countries where it was legal.

The ruling, which elicited a wide range of reactions in the socially conservative country, contrasted sharply with Uganda’s impending implementation of one of the world’s most restrictive anti-LGBT laws.

The Namibian case arose from the residency applications of two individuals: a German woman who married a Namibian woman in Germany and a South African man who married a Namibian man in South Africa, Africa’s only country that recognizes same-sex marriage.

Because their marriages were not legally valid in Namibia, the government refused to grant the non-Namibian spouses residency rights, prompting them to seek redress in court.

“The approach of the (interior) ministry to exclude spouses…in a validly concluded same-sex marriage…infringes both their interrelated rights to dignity and equality,” the Supreme Court ruled.

Gay rights activist Linda Baumann praised the decision as a step forward.

“Today’s verdict and outcome clearly indicates that Namibia is moving towards recognising diversity in this country,” she said, regardless of one’s political or social beliefs.

The Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters, an opposition political party, countered that the Supreme Court was imposing foreign cultural views on Namibians. This is a similar argument to that of other African opponents of LGBT rights who call them “un-African.”

Sexual activity with another man is illegal in Namibia, though the law is rarely enforced.

Many African countries, including Namibia, continue to criminalize same-sex relationships and to stigmatize couples.


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