As in many African countries, homosexuality is illegal in Namibia, based on the common-law offence of sodomy or committing ‘an unnatural sex crime’. Namibia is also very conservative in its attitudes, given the strongly held Christian beliefs of the majority. In view of this, discretion is certainly the better part of valour, as treatment of gay men and lesbians can range from simple social ostracism to physical attack. In 1996 Namibia’s president, Sam Nujoma, continued his very public campaign against homosexuals, recommending that all foreign gays and lesbians be deported or excluded from the country. One minister called homosexuality a ‘behavioural disorder which is alien to African culture’, while in 2005 the Deputy Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration, Teopolina Mushelenga, claimed that lesbians and gays had caused the HIV/AIDS pandemic and were 'an insult to African culture'.

The climate for gays and lesbians in Namibia has, however, eased somewhat in recent years. With no prosecutions recorded under the sodomy law since independence, the United Nations Human Rights Committee called in 2016 for the law against sodomy to be abolished and for laws to be introduced prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The call received the public support of Namibia's ombudsman and stirred little public debate. In the same year, an Afrobarometer opinion poll found that 55% of Namibians would welcome, or would not be bothered by, having a homosexual neighbour. Namibia was one of only four African countries polled to have a majority in favour of the proposition.

Useful Resources

Afriboyz (www.afriboyz.com/Homosexuality-in-Africa.html) Links to gay topics in an African context.

African Horizons (www.africanhorizons.com) Gay-friendly tour operator that offers trips to Southern Africa, including Botswana.

Global Gayz (www.globalgayz.com/africa/namibia) Links to gay issues in Namibia and other African countries.

Organisations

A number of advocacy groups operate openly (if discreetly) in Windhoek. Among these, Out-Right Namibia (http://outrightnamibia.org) is a human-rights organisation based in Windhoek that was formed by gay and lesbian activists to challenge homophobia and advocate for equal rights. Namibian lesbians (and other women’s interests) are also represented by Sister Namibia (www.sisternamibia.org).