A bill banning same-sex marriage has been passed by Namibia’s upper house of parliament, stirring up mixed emotions and opinions with reference to the Supreme Court ruling.
Recall that in May 2023, the Supreme Court of Namibia ruled in favour of recognizing same-sex marriages from other countries.
Although the new law banning same-sex marriage and punishing their supporters was adopted by the upper house without encountering any opposition, it still needs to be endorsed by the lower house and promulgated by President Hage Geingob to come into force.
According to the Namibian Constitution, every bill passed by Parliament requires the assent of the President to be signified by the signing of the bill in order to acquire the status of an Act of Parliament.
The most critical aspect to consider is the constitutionality of the two bills.
The new law establishes that marriages concluded abroad between two persons of the same sex cannot be recognized in Namibia.
The new law also criminalizes 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).
The Constitution makes provision for the President to withhold his assent if he is of the opinion that a bill is in conflict with the provisions of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court ruling has sparked a national debate regarding the interpretation of the law and the rights of individuals in same-sex relationships particularly that the term ‘spouse’ in Section 2(1)(c) of the Immigration Control Act 7 of 1993 is to be interpreted to include same-sex spouses who are lawfully married in another country.
The decision has angered conservatives in sparsely populated and predominantly Christian country.
Article 21 (2) of the Namibian Constitution stipulates that any fundamental freedoms shall be “exercised subject to the law of Namibia, in so far as such law imposes reasonable restrictions on the exercise of the rights and freedom…which are necessary in a democratic society and are required in the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of Namibia, national security, public order, decency or morality…”
While the President’s decision is awaited, the constitutionality of the two bills is a crucial aspect, weighing the rights and freedoms provided by the Namibian Constitution.