A ground-breaking decision by the Namibian Supreme Court to recognize same-sex marriages solemnized outside the country appears to have united religious and political leaders around anti-gay sentiment towards the verdict.
The ruling, which marked a significant step towards LGBTQ+ rights in the country, has revealed deep divisions within society regarding the recognition of same-sex unions.
The matter stemmed from the residency applications of a German woman who married a Namibian woman in Germany, and a South African man who married a Namibian man in South Africa, the only country on the continent allowing same-sex marriage.
Four judges declared that the denial of an official recognition by the Ministry of Home Affairs to same-sex marriages, conducted outside Namibia, violates the constitutional rights to equality and dignity.
The court declared that the marriages of the two couples should be acknowledged in Namibia. Furthermore, the court affirmed that the non-Namibian partner in each union should be recognised as the spouse of their Namibian partner under the Immigration Control Act of the country.
As a result of this judgement, non-Namibian spouses in same-sex marriages are granted the same rights of residence in Namibia which are typically granted to spouses in heterosexual marriages.
In response to the judgement, the Secretary of the Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) Ephraim Nekongo said the country’s laws currently do not allow for the recognition of same-sex marriages, leading to doubts about the compatibility of the court’s decision while in the same breath acknowledging the independence and authority of the courts.
“It is clear that this judgement has undermined our sacred identity as a country and a people.”
Nekongo furthermore expressed his opposition to what he interpreted as a cultural imperialism agenda imposed by foreign entities.
“Homosexuality has no basis in our laws, both written and unwritten. The Swapo Party-led government should, therefore, avoid being complicit in advancing the demonic agenda of the dark forces that seek to undermine our principles, our culture and every moral fibre upon which the functionality of our society is premised,” he continued.
The Elders Council of the ruling party is in alignment with Nekongo’s statement. Secretary Mukwaita Shanyengana echoed the sentiments that Namibian laws do not acknowledge same-sex marriages.
“The Supreme Court cannot apply the law that is in contradiction with the law of the land, just to appease and comply
with some foreign laws in some jurisdictions which attack the moral and judicial existence of our nation,” he charged, adding that the judgement is blasphemy and must therefore be condemned.
Various religious groups have also aired their opposition to the ruling. Meanwhile, official opposition leader McHenry Venaani said the Popuar Democratic Movement (PDM) does not endorse or support the officiating of LGBTQI+ marriages.
However, he emphasised that the PDM supports the human rights of LGBTQI+ groups, as enshrined in the national constitution.
“The power to legalise or prohibit gay marriages lies with the parliament. The legislature, specifically the National Assembly and the National Council, possesses the authority to give credibility to such unions. Therefore, if LGBTQI+ communities seek to have their marriages recognised, they must engage in advocacy and lobby the legislature”, Venaani said in an interview with local media.