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Namibia: Challenging refusal to allow same-sex partner to live and work in Namibia


On 20 January 2022, the High Court of Namibia gave judgment in the consolidated cases of Digashu v Government of the Republic of Namibia and Seiler-Lilles v Government of the Republic of Namibia. In both instances, the spouses of the Namibia citizens were denied immigration status on the basis that the same-sex marriage concluded outside of the country was not recognized under Namibian law.

In the High Court

The High Court dismissed the applications on the basis that it was bound to follow an earlier Supreme Court decision of 2001. Nevertheless, the High Court made important findings on the rights of same-sex couples. The applicants will appeal the decision.

The High Court held that:

“homosexual relationships are without doubt, globally recognised, and increasingly more countries have changed their laws to recognise one’s right not to be discriminated against on the basis of one’s sexual orientation. It is time to recognise that homosexuality is part and parcel of the fabric of our society and that persons- human beings- in homosexual relationships are worthy of being afforded the same rights as other citizens.”

The Court further held that:

“in a functioning democracy, founded on a history such as our own, coming from a system of unreasonable and irrational discrimination, to obtain freedom and independence, and then to continue to irrationally and unjustifiably take away human rights of another segment of Namibian citizenry, simply because of their orientation – amounted to cherry-picking of human rights, and deciding whose rights are more “human”, and to be protected, more than others. This is not what our democracy was founded upon.”

Update on the case
On 3 March 2023, the Supreme Court of Namibia heard the two cases. The court reserved its judgment after hearing the arguments.

News Releases
16 February 2023 Namibia Supreme Court to hear the appeal on immigration rights same-sex spouses.
19 January 2022 Namibia High Court to pronounce on immigration rights of same-sex partners
20 January 2022 Disappointment and hope as same-sex couples are compelled to approach the Namibia Supreme Court for justice.

Case in the News
7 March 2023 – The Namibian: Officials ‘rude’ to same-sex couples seeking equal rights.
2 March 2022 – The Namibian: Same-sex couples prepare for key court hearings.
22 January 2022- Newzroom Afrika interviews Anneke Meerkotter.
21 January 2022- Reuters:
20 January 2022- Times Of India: