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Namibia High Court rules against same-sex couples

A High Court in Namibia has ruled against two same-sex couples who were seeking to have their foreign marriages recognized for immigration purposes, citing previous precedent. But one Justice of the Court has called on the country’s Supreme Court to reverse the ruling, giving hope to same-sex couples.

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Marchers at Namibia Pride on Dec. 4, 2021, called for the repeal of the country’s ban on consensual “sodomy”. (Carl Modler photo courtesy of Out & Proud Namibia / Mamba Online)

The two couples, Namibian national Johan Potgieter and his South African husband Daniel Digashu, and Namibian national Anette Seiler-Lilles and her German wife Anita Seiler-Lilles, had each legally married outside Namibia and were seeking work and residency permits for the non-Namibian spouses.

They argued that the Immigration Act only uses the gender-neutral term “spouse,” and therefore should recognize legally married same-sex couples. But the High Court ruled that they were bound by a twenty-year-old Supreme Court ruling that the country only recognizes heterosexual couples.

Stil, the ruling by the three-judge panel has given hope for the couples, who reports suggest are likely to appeal.

In remarks during her ruling, Judge Hanelie Prinsloo expressed sympathy for the plaintiff’s arguments and called on the Supreme Court to “correct itself” and recognize that same-sex relationships are part and parcel of society, Africa News reports.

“All in all, it does not feel like a loss,” lawyer Carli Schickerling, representing Digashu, told The Namibian after the ruling. “The court has almost written our notice of appeal in the judgement.”

LGBT people face many legal obstacles in the southwest African country, although the situation appears to be improving as the queer community has become more organized and fought for rights through the courts.

Sodomy is illegal under the common law, although the government announced plans last year to decriminalize it. The government has yet to introduce legislation to do so.

A court last year found that discrimination against LGBT people was banned by Article 10 of the Namibian Constitution, which says “All people are equal before the law.” The government, however, has appealed the decision.

That court also ruled that a child born via surrogacy to a same-sex couple must be granted Namibian citizenship on the same basis that a child born to a heterosexual couple would be. The same couple involved also won the right to bring their twin infant daughters home after they were born in South Africa, following a protracted court battle.

Last year, the country held its first Pride Parade in the capital, Windhoek and installed its first rainbow crosswalk.