Namibia: Ekandjo Anti-Gay Bills Now On Geingob's Table

28 September 2023

The National Assembly on Monday finally passed the private member's bills introduced by Swapo lawmaker Jerry Ekandjo to define the term "spouse" and amend the Marriage Act of 1961 to block the recognition of same-sex marriages in Namibia, and it will now be up to president Hage Geingob to sign or reject them.

Ekandjo earlier this year introduced a bill on the definition of "spouse", invoking articles 81 and 4 of the Constitution to contradict a decision of Namibia's Supreme Court on same-sex marriage.

He also tabled a bill to change sections of the Marriage Act, including the definitions of the terms "marriage" and "spouse".

The bill further seeks to prohibit same-sex marriage and the solemnisation of same-sex marriages, and to block the official recognition of same-sex marriages in Namibia.

The bills were already passed by the National Council with minimal amendments and were overwhelmingly supported by both sides of the house.

A Swapo National Council member from the Oshana region, Andreas Amundjindi, proposed further amendments to the marriage amendment bill, which will now also prohibit marital unions between transgender individuals.

Amundjindi proposed that the definition of the word "spouse" should refer to "a person, being one half of a legal union between a genetically born man and a genetically born woman of the opposite sex of that person".

His emphasis on the term "genetically born" seals the fate of transgender individuals who were hoping to get married to people of the opposite sex. The initial definition of "spouse" in Ekandjo's marriage amendment bill stated that "wherever it occurs in this and any other legislation [spouse] means a partner in a marriage between persons of the opposite sex".

Ekandjo tabled the bills in the National Assembly in reaction to a Supreme Court judgement in which the government was ordered to recognise two same-sex marriages legally concluded outside Namibia.

Earlier this year, ombudsman Basillus Dyakugha advised people who are against the bills to wait until the laws are passed and then approach the Supreme Court to invalidate the laws if they have grounds to prove that their rights are being violated.

"We cannot stop the legislature from making laws, but there are checks and balances through which the public can ensure that all the laws from the august house are above board and in line with the Constitution," he said.

Dyakugha further said the president can refuse to sign any law that is in conflict with the Constitution, and if it is not urgent or there are no funds to implement the activity for which it is being passed.

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