Namibia’s Supreme Court Recognises Same-Sex Marriages Formed Elsewhere

Namibia’s Supreme Court on Tuesday passed a ruling that recognizes same-sex marriages contracted abroad between citizens and foreign partners from other countries, reported Reuters.

The landmark ruling makes Namibia only the second nation on the continent to do so after South Africa. It overturns a ruling given by the High Court last year, which refused to accept same-sex marriages concluded outside Namibia.

Two same-sex couples filed joint cases in Namibia’s court for the recognition of their marriages conducted outside Namibia and get essential spousal immigration rights, including permanent residence and employment authorization.

 Initially brought before the court in March, the joint cases involved South African national Daniel Digashu and spouse Namibian citizen Johann Potgieter, and German national Anita Seiler-Lilles, who is married to Namibian citizen Anette Seiler.

“This Court accordingly found that the approach of the Ministry to exclude spouses, including the appellants, in a validly concluded same-sex marriage… infringes both the interrelated rights to dignity and equality of the appellants,” the ruling said.

Namibia’s Supreme Court justices ruled in a 4 to 1 vote that Namibians married to foreign nationals in foreign jurisdictions must be recognized as any other couple within the country.

Justice JA Mainga dissented on the basis that the laws of Namibia do not recognize same-sex relationships.  He argued that the country is under no obligation to recognize marriages that are inconsistent with its policies and laws, emphasizing the traditional understanding of marriage and the protection of heteronormative family life.

 The other four judges, however, ruled that not recognizing same-sex couples infringes on their rights to dignity and equality.

Namibia’s government considers homosexuality as being illegal under a rarely-enforced 1927 sodomy law dating to its period under South African rule.

South Africa, under its liberal post-apartheid constitution, is the only African nation which allows gay marriage, legalized in 2006.

Caroline Finnegan

A professionnal journalist for the past ten years, I cover global news and economic affairs for The Chief Observer.

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