Namibia’s groundbreaking ruling: a victory for LGBTIQ+ equality

July 4, 2024

In a historic ruling on June 21, 2024, the Namibian High Court declared the country’s laws banning same-sex relations unconstitutional, marking a significant victory for human rights and LGBTIQ+ equality in the region. This decision is a crucial milestone, not only for Namibia but for the broader movement towards equality and acceptance across Africa.

Overturning the archaic sodomy laws, which dated back to the apartheid era, reflects a growing recognition of human rights and individual freedoms. The ruling comes in the wake of recent deadly violence against LGBTIQ+ community members in Namibia. Six queer people have been murdered since October 2023, as far as is publicly known.

Friedel Dausab

Central to this landmark victory is Friedel Dausab, a prominent lawyer and passionate human rights advocate in Namibia. Dausab’s tireless fight against LGBTIQ+ discrimination led him to the High Court of Namibia, where he successfully challenged the compatibility of the common law offense of sodomy and other related offenses with his rights under the Constitution. “This is good for young LGBTQ people to know that their love is not a crime,” Dausab said after the ruling. “It is a great day for Namibia.”

Since 2021, his dedication to justice and equality has also been part of Hivos’ Free to be Me program, which empowers activists and organizations advocating for LGBTIQ+ rights across the globe. Friedel is a member of Free to be Me’s Community of Action in Namibia, a safe space where LGBTIQ+ people can jointly develop and implement plans to advocate for their rights. He is also a Safety and Security officer at Positive Vibes, one of the program’s partners.

Equal Rights Namibia
Photo: Omar van Reenen, Equal Namibia

An important precedent

Namibia’s decision to decriminalize same-sex relations sends a powerful message to other African nations where similar discriminatory laws remain in place. Its hopeful precedent can encourage rights defenders in other countries to redouble their efforts to push for positive changes in their own laws regarding LGBTIQ+ rights.

The international community has widely praised Namibia’s decision, viewing it as a significant step forward in the global fight for LGBTIQ+ equality. This victory underscores the importance of continued advocacy and international support to achieve equality for all. We celebrate this ruling in Namibia as a testament to the power of collective action and the enduring fight for human rights.

Free to be Me

Through the Free to be Me program, which supports Friedel Dausab and many other activists like him, Hivos is helping to build a more inclusive and just society. Namibia’s decriminalization of same-sex relations is a powerful testament of what can be achieved when local activists receive the support and resources needed to challenge discriminatory laws and oppressive systems.

About Free to be Me

Free to be Me is an innovative program that builds and maintains a movement of self-confident and diverse LGBTIQ+ organizations and activists who advocate for their human and socio-economic rights. In 14 countries in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia we support LGBTIQ+ people to assert their rights and start change in their community, country and internationally.