Namibia: Alleged Rape Incident Used to Attack LGBTIQ+ Community


A controversy has erupted in Namibia after the alleged rape of a teenager by a politician was weaponised against the LGBTIQ+ community.

Last week, the Youth League of the ruling SWAPO party issued a media statement expressing outrage at an incident in which a male SWAPO councillor in the municipality of Gobabis faced allegations of sexual abuse of a boy.

The league welcomed the arrest of the man by the Namibian Police Force in Omaheke Region and offered its support to the victim.

MP Ephraim Nekongo, Secretary of the SWAPO Party Youth League, then went on to “reiterate our stance against homosexuality and all that it entails.”

He and the league further called “on government to strengthen our legal instruments in opposition of the destructive homosexuality agenda.”

The statement sparked the ire of members of the LGBTIQ+ community who accused the league of dangerously linking child abuse and rape to homosexuality.

Targeting Vulnerable minorities for Cheap Political Gain

Wendelinus Ndiwakalunga Hamutenya-Jeremiah, a former Mr Gay Namibia, lashed out at the SWAPO Youth League on Facebook.

“SWAPO Youth League must understand that rape is a crime and their member committed a crime and this has nothing to do with homosexuality,” he wrote.

“Why does SWAPO never condemn when their male members rape women? But now that two males are involved, they want to score cheap political points,” said Hamutenya-Jeremiah.

He urged political parties participating in the upcoming elections, particularly SWAPO, to embrace the equal rights and dignity of all Namibians and refrain from exploiting and targeting vulnerable minorities for cheap political gain.

Namibian LGBTIQ+ activist Omar van Reenen agreed and described the league’s statement as bizarre.

“Homophobe Secretary in Chief, Nekongo, conflates raping a teenager with homosexuality. In a move to separate the party from the rapists among them, he uses this manoeuvre to ‘other’ rapists as homosexuals. And this is your youth champion? We are led by fools,” van Reenen tweeted.

According to the Namibian Sun, police have subsequently revealed that the youth is 19 years old and that there is insufficient evidence that the incident happened under coercive circumstances.

Nekongo, however, stood firm on the league’s stance, describing homosexuality as an “imperialist agenda that seeks to normalise counter-revolutionary acts on our motherland.”

Intensified Queerphobic Sentiment in Namibia

Consensual sex between men remains illegal in Namibia, with at least 64 arrests reported by police between 2003 and 2019, although none of these cases were ultimately prosecuted by the authorities.

The country recently witnessed intensified queerphobic sentiment and debates on LGBTIQ+ rights following a Supreme Court ruling on May 16 2023 that mandated the state to recognise same-sex marriages registered in countries where they are legal.

Lawmakers in September sought to reverse the court’s decision through a bill outlawing all same-sex marriages, raising concerns about the potential erosion of judicial independence and the rule of law.

The bill was sent for assent to President Hage Geingob who subsequently died in office from cancer. It remains unclear if his successor, Vice President Nangolo Mbumba, will sign the legislation into law.

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