Pressure mounts on Mbumba to reject anti-gay bill

… Petition garners 5 000 signatures

Namibia Equal Rights Movement has compiled more than 5 000 signatures in a petition to ask president Nangolo Mbumba to reject the passing of the anti-gay bill.

The anti-lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and other (LGBTQI+) bill was tabled in parliament last year.

According to a statement sent to The Namibian yesterday by Equal Namibia co-founder and campaign manager Omar van Reenen, the LGBTQI+ bill is unconstitutional and should be rejected.

They said the petition, launched in May, aims to end hate crime and uphold human rights for the LGBTQI+ community.

Van Reenen said the struggle for liberation was about LGBTQI+ rights.

“The struggle for liberation was about LGBTQI+ rights, because in order for us to build a born-free Namibia for us all, we need to protect the most vulnerable in our society. LGBTQI+ rights are the civil rights issue of my generation, just as racial injustice was the civil rights issue of our parents’ generation during apartheid,” they said.

This comes after Swapo lawmaker Jerry Ekandjo in 2023 drafted a private member’s bill – passed by both the National Assembly and National Council – to define the term “spouse” as only a woman and man, and amend the Marriage Act of 1961 to block the recognition of same-sex marriage in Namibia.

Sister Namibia national coordinator Brigit Loots says since the bill was passed, violent hate crimes against the LGBTQI+ community have reached an alarming rate.

Loots says the community has suffered assaults, rapes, and so far, at least six queer Namibians have been murdered.

Loots says if the law is to be amended, it will make hate incidents more dangerous.

“It will give service providers like police, hospital staff and civil servants even more reason to turn away and discriminate against those seeking support, help or protection if they do not agree or understand perceived differences. This bill denies Namibians their dignity and freedom and threatens to take away the voices of those who wish to advocate for equal rights,” she says.

Lize Ehlers

Lize Ehlers, an ally of the LGBTQI+ community, also opposed the bill.

Namibia Diverse Women’s Association strategic coordinator Linda Baumann has called for an open dialogue between government officials, church leaders, traditional leaders and other stakeholders on the matter.

Baumann says the aim is to build understanding between Namibians and address discriminatory misconceptions.

Linda Baumann

The Namibian reported this year that South West Africa National Union (Swanu) secretary general Wendy Christian said it is still debatable in Swanu as to whether they support the LGBTQI+ community or not, but despite what their stance would be, they have noticed the escalation of gender-based violence.

“We ought to protect the rights and the lives of all the Namibians,” she said.

Last month, Swapo backbencher Jerry Ekandjo demanded an explanation from the presidency on whether the president will sign the bills into law or not.

According to Swapo deputy secretary general Uahekua Herunga, no one should be bullied or killed because they belong to a certain community and the party does not condone violence against anyone.

Herunga, however, maintained that Swapo does not condone or support gay practices.

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