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Namibia: Vote on a Law Against Same-Sex Marriage

Namibia’s upper house of parliament on Wednesday passed a law banning same-sex marriage and punishing their supporters, seen as an unconstitutional attack by the LGBTQ community.

The text, aimed at contradicting a judgment of the Supreme Court which authorized the recognition of certain unions contracted abroad, was adopted by this assembly without encountering any opposition. However, it still needs to be endorsed by the lower house and promulgated by President Hage Geingob to come into force.

“The marital union is between a man and a woman and that must be respected,” Elder Filipe, a member of the ruling SWAPO party, told parliament.

The text defines “marriage” as a union “between persons of opposite sexes” and “spouse” as “half of a legal union between two persons born genetically male and female”.

The new law establishes that marriages concluded abroad between two persons of the same sex cannot be recognized in Namibia.

It further makes the solemnization, participation in, promotion, or advertisement of such a marriage a criminal offense punishable by imprisonment for up to six years and a fine of up to at 100,000 Namibian dollars ($5,500).

“It feels like a direct attack on the LGBTQ community,” LGBTQ rights activist Zindri Swartz told AFP. “It is a gross violation of our dignity and humanity”.

Sex between homosexuals is prohibited in Namibia under a 1927 sodomy law, which is rarely enforced.

But in recent years, the southern African country has seen several court cases over the rights of same-sex couples to marry, parenthood, and immigrate.

In May, the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages concluded overseas between Namibian citizens and foreigners should be recognized.

The decision has angered conservatives in this sparsely populated and predominantly Christian country, a popular tourist destination for its wildlife and nature.