Namibia: LGBTIQ+ Victory in Namibia a Reminder That Africa Is Not a Country

Most African countries have tough anti-gay laws.

Earlier this week the Namibian Supreme Court ruled that the government's refusal to recognise the validity of same-sex marriages concluded outside Namibia for the purpose of immigration law infringes the interrelated rights to dignity and equality guaranteed in the Namibian Constitution. While the judgement will, for now, only benefit a few same-sex couples who marry elsewhere, it contains powerful language that could be used to challenge the validity of other legislation that currently discriminates against LGBTIQ+ individuals in Namibia.

This important victory for LGBTIQ+ rights in Namibia follows in the wake of the adoption of a draconian Anti-Homosexuality Bill by the Ugandan parliament, as well as news that an opposition MP had tabled a similar Bill -- the Family Protection Bill -- before the Kenyan parliament. Some might therefore interpret the Namibian development as bucking a general trend of intensified oppression of queer people by governments in sub-Saharan Africa.

But the story is more complicated than this.

The first thing to note is that developments in Uganda and Kenya are linked to a concerted campaign in at least 10 countries on the African continent against gay rights, abortion, birth control, and sex education by a far-right US Christian organisation called Family Watch International and its president, Sharon Slater. Slater and her organisation were actively involved in campaigning and strategising for the adoption of the Uganda Bill. She met with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni on 2 April this year urging him to add an exemption to the law for LGBTIQ people who were being subjected to so-called conversion therapy -- a set of discredited practices that attempt to change a person's sexual orientation....

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