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Cablegate: Namibia: Human Rights Trends Pertaining to Sexual

VZCZCXRO7822
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHWD #0514 3641004
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 301004Z DEC 09
FM AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0042
INFO SOUTHERN AF DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY COLLECTIVE

UNCLAS WINDHOEK 000514

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM WA PGOV
SUBJECT: Namibia: Human Rights Trends Pertaining to Sexual
Orientation

REF: STATE 130765

1. (SBU) Legislation: Namibia has no legislation that
criminalizes same-sex relationships and none is being contemplated
that would target gays or lesbians. Article 10 of the Namibian
constitution prohibits any form of discrimination. Sodomy --
defined as sexual intercourse between two males - is a crime,
although post contacts were not aware of any instances in which the
sodomy law has been enforced. A specific provision against
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation was contained in
the 1992 Labor Act. The revised 2007 Labor Act prohibits
discrimination on the basis of sex, but the reference to sexual
orientation was expunged. The Combating of Domestic Violence Act
of 2003 extends protections only to persons in heterosexual
relationships.

2. (SBU) (SBU) Judicial decisions: In one of the only
relevant court decisions on this topic, the High Court in 1999
ordered the granting of permanent residence to a plaintiff who
claimed that her application had been denied for several reasons,
including her sexual orientation. In its ruling, the High Court
recognized same-sex relationships as equivalent to heterosexual
(married) relationships. On appeal by the Immigration Board, the
Supreme Court set aside the High Court decision with regard to
granting the plaintiff permanent residence. The Supreme Court also
overturned the High Court's more liberal position that the
plaintiff met the definition of spouse under Namibian law. The
Supreme Court did however, order the government's immigration board
to review its decision within 30 days; the board eventually granted
the plaintiff residency.

3. (SBU) Political rhetoric: In the past, senior Namibian
politicians have made disparaging remarks about homosexuality.
Former President Sam Nujoma in particular is known for his
intolerance of homosexuality. In 2001 he was quoted as saying
"the Republic of Namibia does not allow homosexuality (or)
lesbianism here." Former Minister of Home Affairs Jerry Ekandjo
(currently Minister of Regional and Local Government) reportedly
stated in 1998 that he intended to table anti-gay legislation in
the National Assembly. This never happened, and there has been
little discussion about homosexuality in the National Assembly.

4. (SBU) One of Namibia's leading advocates of gay and
lesbian rights told us that her organization had felt very "under
the gun" after the remarks described above. Since President
Hifikepunye Pohamba's assumption of office in 2005, however, the
situation has much improved, both because Pohamba is a political
moderate and because he is friendlier to civil society and favors
dialogue over confrontation, she said. One ongoing concern is
that gay sex workers continue to be a major target of police
harassment.

5. (SBU) Public attitudes: Although Namibia is a
conservative society, public attitudes are becoming more tolerant,
particularly in urban areas. The Rainbow Project NGO, formed in
1997, has done a great deal of education and advocacy work, and it
seems to have had a positive impact. The effort has received
strong support from most of the human rights community in Namibia,
and a recent leader of the Namibian Council of Churches was very
supportive of the Rainbow Project's efforts. In a positive sign
of evolving public attitudes, most opposition political parties
attended a forum organized in November 2009 by the Women Claiming
Citizenship Campaign, an advocacy group for the rights of gay,
lesbian, transgender, and bisexual Namibian citizens. Several of
the political parties in attendance declared that human rights were
for everyone, irrespective of their sexual orientation.
Homosexuality remains a taboo in the rural areas, where gays and
lesbians are often forced into heterosexual marriages and suffer
violence at the hands of family members.
MATHIEU

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