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Activists hit back at Swapo over same-sex marriage

Human rights activist Linda Baumann yesterday said a clear legal interpretation of Namibia’s Constitution is required to ensure the fair treatment of all citizens.

Baumann was responding to the Swapo central committee’s instruction to the government to change the definition of the word spouse in the Immigration Control Act, which will result in same-sex marriage partners not being considered spouses.

On 16 May, the Supreme Court ruled against the ministry of home affairs’ refusal to recognise spouses in two same-sex marriages validly concluded outside Namibia for immigration purposes in terms of the Immigration Control Act of 1993.

The court found that the ministry’s stance infringed on those foreign nationals’ rights to dignity and equality under Namibian law.
Baumann said Swapo’s directive is indicative of the party’s use of political power to make judgements that violate their own oaths and the rights of ordinary citizens.

The directive plainly contradicts the Supreme Court’s reading of article 14, which states that men and women of full age, regardless of sexual orientation, can create a family.

“It is not fair that our lives must be judged on the basis where the collective humanity of all is being compromised,” she said.

Baumann warned that Swapo’s directive could lead to an increase in anti- lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and other (LGBTQI+) sentiment.

“We are going to see the incitement of violence, an increase of anti-LGBTQI+ groups, and also the direct gross violation of the Constitution in this country by the ruling party,” Baumann said.

She urged Swapo to uphold the principles of human rights and avoid compromising the rights and lives of LGBTQI+ individuals.

“In no way can we see that there was an ethical position, because right now Swapo needs to be clear, speak with its audience and its members because they need the votes.

Baumann echoed the sentiments of lawyer Carli Schickerling, who represented the two same-sex couples in the Supreme Court case.

Schickerling had said that the home affairs ministry’s conduct towards the two couples was found to be unconstitutional and the only way to modify that is to stop the conduct, not by definition of clauses in legislation.

“The Supreme Court found the discrimination to be unconstitutional. Words in legislation may possibly be modified […] but the violation of a person’s dignity cannot be undone by using euphemisms,” she said.

Following its central committee meeting on Saturday, Swapo instructed the government to modify the definition of the term “spouse” in the Immigration Control Act to prevent same-sex marriage partners being regarded as each other’s spouse.

Swapo met one month after the Supreme Court ruling.

Swapo in a statement said it “strongly condemns and repudiates all kinds of immoral and indecent acts”, as well as “other associated acts that are either inconsistent with Namibian laws or against public policy”, and was directing “its government to enforce all laws in force aimed at preventing and combating such acts”.

Meanwhile, Shirley Magazi from the Christian Coalition of Churches in Namibia applauded the Swapo central committee for its decisive directive to the government.

“The Swapo central committee has demonstrated strong leadership and reiterated the principles of democracy and separation of power as is necessary in a democratic society,” she said.

It is now for the executive under the leadership of the president to expediently carry out these directives, she said.

“This may, however, be challenging considering the fact that the executive could possibly be compromised, as at present the values of the Swapo party as expressed by the central committee, which is the highest organ of authority between congresses, are in direct conflict with the values of certain members of the executive,” Magazi said.