Two couples – Johann Potgieter and Daniel Digashu, and Anita Seiler-Lilles and Anette Seiler – won a Supreme Court case to have their marriages recognised in Namibia. (Photo: supplied)
MPs in Namibia have approved legislation aimed at banning same-sex marriage and undermining the recent historic Supreme Court ruling recognising international same-sex marriages.
The bills were introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s decision on 16 May, which ruled that the state must recognise same-sex marriages registered in countries where they are legal.
This landmark ruling was seen as a significant step forward for the country, where homosexuality is still criminalised. However, it also sparked a wave of homophobic vitriol and protests, particularly from anti-LGBTQ+ religious leaders and politicians, including the ruling party SWAPO.
Excluding same-sex couples from the definition of marriage
The new legislation redefines marriage as only permissible “between persons of the opposite sex.” Additionally, it seeks to reverse the Supreme Court’s decision by stating that “no marriage between persons of the same sex shall be recognised as a valid marriage in the Republic of Namibia.”
Those participating in same-sex marriage ceremonies could face fines and up to six years in jail under the proposed legislation. The bills will ultimately be sent to President Hage Geingob for assent before they become law.
The Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which supported the same-sex couples behind the May court ruling, has condemned the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation. The organisation stated that the regressive efforts in Parliament undermine the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
It accused lawmakers of rushing the legislation under the guise of moral panic, misleading people and misrepresenting the scope of the Supreme Court judgment for short-term political gains.
Undermining Namibia’s constitutional democracy
Daniel Digashu, one of the individuals who fought for the recognition of his marriage in the Supreme Court, expressed dismay at the latest developments.
He said, “After six years in the courts, it is disappointing and disheartening to see our efforts with the judiciary be reduced to nothing and to see the courts and the law be overlooked. Those six years were not without suffering, both emotionally and financially, and I just feel like we are tired of the abuse.
“The Supreme Court should have been the clarity and closure we were all waiting for, but instead, we see justice being delayed and the Supreme Court ruling being undermined and disregarded. The lack of freedom we had and still have as a family is appalling.”
SALC has called on the president not to approve the legislation, arguing that introducing laws contradicting the constitutional interpretation of fundamental human rights and freedoms would be a step backwards and could lead to instability by undermining the supremacy of the Constitution.
They warn that passing the amendments into law could establish a dangerous precedent and pose a threat to all fundamental freedoms and rights protected under the Constitution.