Namibian court rejects same-sex couples seeking legal recognition

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WINDHOEK – Namibia’s High Court ruled on Thursday against two same-sex couples who were fighting to have their marriages recognized under national law, with the judge saying that although she agreed with the couples’ position, she was powerless to change the situation.

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The decision related to the cases of partners Daniel Digashu and Johan Potgieter and a second couple, Anette Seiler-Lilles and Anita Seiler-Lilles. Digashu, a South African, and Anita, born in Germany, were denied applications for work permits and permanent residence respectively because of their same-sex marital status.

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The Namibian legal system does not recognize same-sex marriages and criminalizes sex between non-heterosexual couples, although the law is rarely enforced. The two couples established their legal partnership outside of Namibia, where they now live together.

Same-sex relationships are illegal in many African countries, from Algeria in the north to Eswatini in the south, and couples risk being imprisoned or openly scorned in public.

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In court, they argued that the word “spouse” in the Namibian Immigration Control Act should include same-sex spouses or, failing that, that the relevant section of the law should be declared unconstitutional.

Justice Hanelie Prinsloo said she agreed with those arguments but was bound by a more than 20-year-old Supreme Court ruling, which said Namibia did not legally recognize same-sex relationships.

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“Only the Supreme Court can correct itself,” she said, adding that it was high time for the Namibian constitution to reflect that same-sex relationships are an integral part of society.

Anette Seiler-Lilles said while the decision was disappointing, it also gave hope that things could change and they would now discuss an appeal.

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“It touched us emotionally,” she said of the ordeal, adding that she and Anita, who have been partners for over 20 years and married for 18, felt they had been victims. of discrimination.

“On the other hand, emotionally, it made our relationship stronger,” she said.

The case marked the latest legal challenge aimed at improving LGBTQ+ rights in Namibia.

In a verdict hailed as a major victory for same-sex couples in the country, in October Namibian Phillip Luhl and his husband Guillermo Delgado obtained citizenship by descent for their son, Yona Luhl-Delgado, who was born to a surrogate mother in Africa. of the South in 2019.

The couple had fought over the citizenship of Yona and her younger twin sisters, who were denied documents required to enter Namibia after they were born in March 2021, with authorities arguing Luhl needed to prove a genetic link with the children.

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