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Court okays same-sex relationships in Namibia

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Namibia’s high court has struck down colonial-era laws criminalising same-sex relationships in the Southern African country.

The high court sitting in Windhoek, the nation’s capital, declared the offences of “sodomy” and “unnatural sexual acts” as unconstitutional.

Though rarely enforced, the law dates back to 1927 when Namibia was under colonial rule but found its way into the nation’s laws when it attained independence in 1990.

The ruling comes after a local activist, Friedel Dausab filed a case challenging the “discriminatory” laws.

Rights groups said the law had been used to rationalise discrimination against people in the LGBTQ+ community in Namibia.

The judges, in their decision, emphasised that criminalising consensual same-sex activity has no place in a democratic society.

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The court said the law was incompatible with the constitutional rights of Namibian citizens.

“We are not persuaded that in a democratic society such as ours… it is reasonably justifiable to make an activity criminal just because a segment, maybe a majority, of the citizenry consider it to be unacceptable,” the judge said.

Dausab said, “Because of this decision, I no longer feel like a criminal on the run in my own country simply because of who I am.”

International organisations and LGBTQ rights groups have also celebrated the verdict.

“This decision by the High Court of Namibia is a powerful step towards a more inclusive Namibia,” said Anne Githuku-Shongwe, UNAIDS Regional Director for East and Southern Africa.

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“The colonial-era common law that criminalised same-sex sexual relations perpetuated an environment of discrimination and fear, often hindering access to essential healthcare services for LGBTQ+ individuals. To protect everyone’s health, we need to protect everyone’s human rights.”

London-based Human Dignity Trust called the ruling “historic”.

“LGBT Namibians can now look to a brighter future,” AFP quoted the chief executive of the trust, Tea Braun as saying.

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