Namibia: Sodomy Law in Cabinet's Hands

Gavel.

Cabinet is expected to pronounce itself on the abolishment of the common law offences of sodomy and unnatural sexual offences after minister of justice Yvonne Dausab submits a report to it within two weeks.

This comes after the Law Reform and Development Commission submitted the 'Report on the abolishment of the common law offences of sodomy and unnatural sexual offences' to Dausab yesterday.

The commission says despite seldom enforcement; it violates the fundamental rights of the individuals who could be affected, as well as creating and enforcing a culture of homophobia and intolerance against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) community.

"These attributes make the laws in question very likely unconstitutional," the commission expressed itself in the report.

According to statistics in the report, between 2003 and 2013 there were 115 sodomy cases reported to the police and 64 arrests.

Of the arrests, 59 perpetrators were adult men and four underage boys, while the gender of one is unknown.

Out of the 115 sodomy cases, 45 underage were boys and 65 adult men. The ages of the other five were not known.

"The police statistics demonstrate that despite its continued existence, the common law crime of sodomy is seldom enforced," the report reads.

Namibia Equal Rights Movement founder Omar van Reenen has welcomed the report, however, he regretted that it has taken the country 30 years during which the community has suffered.

"The government and state needs to acknowledge the promotion of the discrimination during the 30 years. They must now promote and protect the LGBTQ+ community and champion a Namibia equal rights bill," he stressed.

NO HOMOPHOBES HERE

Dausab denied the existence of state-sanctioned homophobia, saying such an allegation is serious.

During the handover yesterday morning, Dausab said neither the current president Hage Geingob nor any member of the executive has made homophobic remarks.

"I do not know of any Cabinet minister or head of state having stood up anywhere publicly and said anything homophobic about any member of the [LGBTQ+] community in the current administration that I am part of," she said.

Van Reenen has called this statement disingenuous, referencing cases against the state and former Minister of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security, Frans Kapofi.

"I think it is disingenuous to not acknowledge that former president Sam Nujoma told police officers to arrest, deport and imprison the LGBTQ+ people. It is sad to not acknowledge that former justice minister Albert Kawana was the person responsible for not removing sexual orientation from the labour act," he argued.

The report equally recognises that on many occasions Namibia, as the state, reported that it does not criminalise homosexual people.

"[However,] one cannot deny the stigmatisation that these laws create for homosexual men.

"In fact, these laws reduce them to criminals," the report reads.

SODOMY CONSEQUENCES

The implications of the sodomy law, the commission cites, not only stigmatise and discriminate against gay men but also have cross-cutting effects on their lives.

The consequences of sodomy are classified under serious offences such as treason, rape, murder, assault where a dangerous injury is inflicted, robbery, theft, fraud and forgery.

In these cases, a police officer or private citizen can arrest the person without a warrant and use deadly force against such a suspect in effecting an arrest.

These are prescribed in schedule one of the act.

The commission pointed out that these are "clearly" disproportionate to the crime and, therefore, almost certainly unconstitutional.

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