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Namibia Supreme Court Endorses Recognizing Same-Sex/ LGBTQ Marriage Contracted Abroad

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LGBTQ Marriage in Namibia to be Recognized if Contracted Abroad

The Supreme Court of Namibia recognized same-sex/ LGBTQ marriages between nationals and foreign partners on Tuesday, a historic decision in a nation where homosexuality is illegal under the law.

The verdict overturns a High Court decision from last year that refused to recognize same-sex unions contracted outside of Namibia.

After the Ministry of home affairs and Immigration declined to issue permits to same-sex foreign spouses whom they had married outside of the country, two Namibian nationals sought redress from the courts.

According to AfricaNews, the Supreme Court ruling said, “This Court accordingly found that the approach of the Ministry to exclude spouses, including the appellants, in a validly concluded same-sex marriage… infringes both the interrelated rights to dignity and equality of the appellants.”

A tiny number of LGBTQ activists gathered at Namibia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, when justices decided in a 4-1 vote that Namibians who were married to foreigners in foreign countries must be treated equally with other couples living in the nation. The ruling makes Namibia only the second nation on the continent to recognize same-sex unions contracted abroad after South Africa.

One of the five judges who heard the two appeals dissented from the majority ruling.

He argued that Namibia is under no obligation to recognize marriages that are inconsistent with its policies and laws, emphasizing the traditional understanding of marriage and the protection of heteronormative family life.

The opposing opinion emphasizes the continued controversies and difficulties surrounding the country’s debate on marriage equality. The majority ruling in favor of recognizing same-sex marriages highlights the significance of constitutional rights and the idea of equality, even while it emphasizes the necessity for ongoing discussion and debate.

While there are prohibitions against same-sex relationships in over 30 African nations, Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa have adopted a different attitude.

Following the verdict on Tuesday, activists are debating whether homosexual couples should also be permitted to be married in Namibia. Many gay Namibian couples now get married in South Africa.

 

Annette Seiler, who is married to German national Anita Seiler-Lilles, brought the case along with Namibian citizen Johann Potgieter and his South African husband, Matsobane Daniel Digashu.

Their marriages were respectively concluded in Germany and South Africa.

Both Seiler and Digashu pointed out that the support of the LGBTQ and intersex community and its allies has been instrumental over the 6-year battle with the courts.

“It has always been about the community because we deserve to have it all without being put down or being told this is not allowed. So, I think this is a big win for the community as a whole. It’s not about us, or just our families. It’s for absolutely everyone!” Digashu said.

Omar van Reenen, the co-founder of Equal Namibia, a youth-led social movement for equality, said the ruling has strengthened the promise of equality and freedom from discrimination in the country.

“The Supreme Court really made a resounding decision. It just feels like our existence matters — that we belong and that our human dignity matters,” he said. “The Supreme Court … has upheld the most important thing today and that is the constitution’s promise that everyone is equal before the law and that the rights enshrined in our preamble reign supreme, and equality prevails.”

As the highest court in Namibia, the Supreme Court’s rulings are enforceable by all other courts in the nation unless overturned by the Supreme Court itself or overruled by a bill passed by Parliament and implemented.

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