Twins in limbo – Namibia tears apart same-sex family

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Namibia refuses to recognise this same-sex family

A same-sex family torn apart – Phillip Lühl and his daughters, Paula and Maya

Two newborn baby girls have been cruelly separated from their father and brother because the Namibian government is refusing to recognise their same-sex family.

Paula and Maya Delgado Lühl were born on 13 March in Durban, South Africa through surrogacy. Their Namibian dad, architect and university lecturer Phillip Lühl, was there to welcome them into the world. He planned to take them home to Namibia where the family is currently residing  to meet their other father, his Mexican-born husband Guillermo Delgado, and their two-year-old son, Yona.

Namibia’s Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security, however, is refusing to issue travel documents for the twins to allow them into the country.

This despite the South African authorities issuing a birth certificate confirming the two men as the fathers of both Yona and his two sisters. The couple were married in 2014 in South Africa, a union that Namibia also does not recognise.

In a video posted on Facebook, ahead of the county’s 31st Independence day celebrations on Tuesday, Phillip said that “For many members of the LGBTQ community the words freedom and equality, after 30 years, still ring quite hollow.”

“We have a minister of Home Affairs who is essentially closing the door of the Namibian house to two baby girls that are not even a week old.”

Phillip called on the public to show their support for the family in the coming days to “end this discrimination” and “allow Paula and Maya to come back home.”

According to The Namibian, Phillip has filed an urgent application in the Windhoek High Court to order the minister to issue emergency travel certificates to his daughters or allow him to enter Namibia with the babies. (The couple are already embroiled in a separate case to fight the government’s denial of permanent residence to Guillermo.)

It’s been reported that the ministry, which is opposing the application, is now demanding genetic proof that Phillip is indeed the biological father of the children.

The couple denies that this is a requirement to prove paternity as their surrogacy agreement was approved by the High Court in Cape Town, which ruled that the children resulting from the surrogacy are legally the children of the couple from the day of birth. (The couple spent prolonged periods of time in Cape Town when Guillermo was pursuing a PhD at the University of Cape Town.)

A rally to support the family is being planned for the court hearing on Thursday.

Namibian resident and founder of LGBT Namibia, Chris de Villiers, has written an open letter to the Namibian Minister of Home Affairs, Frans Kapofi, condemning the country’s stance on LGBTQ equality.

“In refusing to issue travel documents, the ministry renders the twins de facto stateless [and] prevents the family from being united, contravening Namibian and international laws,” he wrote.

“[The LGBTQ community are] not asking to be favoured but, just like everyone else, we do not want to be discriminated against,” de Villiers added, describing the situation as a “blatant violation of human rights.”

He urged the Namibian government to “revise its legislation with regards to LGBTQ+ rights and align it with its inclusive neighbours’ legislation, like South Africa…”

LGBTQ+ people in Namibia face discrimination, harassment and violence. Consensual “sodomy” between men is illegal and could be used to prosecute LGBTQ individuals, although this is not believed to have happened since the country’s independence in 1990. Nevertheless, the mere existence of such laws has a detrimental impact on the everyday lives of the LGBTQ community, of which the current case is but one example.

To show your support for Paula and Maya and their same-sex family, share this article and use the hashtags #familiesbelongtogether and #bringpaulaandmayahome.

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