Namibia should not recognise same-sex marriages: Kawana

Home affairs minister  said Namibia should not recognise same-sex marriages concluded outside the country.

Kawana said this while tabling the marriage bill in parliament, a bill that seeks to overrule the Supreme Court ruling on the same-sex marriage case, which was brought before the court last year by two same-sex partners. Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of same-sex- partners who took the government to court seeking recognition of their marriage, a move that triggered lawmaker Jerry Ekandjo to pass his private member bill that aims to define the term spouse, which was passed without any objection in parliament and not signed up to date by the president.

Kawana, home affairs minister, was also triggered to table a marriage bill seeking to overrule the Supreme Court judgement. Home Affairs was directed by the court to recognise same-sex marriage. “There is no doubt that following the judgment of the Supreme Court, which was handed down on 16 May last year, the issue of same-sex marriage and sex orientation has become topical in Namibia”, Kawana said.

Kawana added that two foreign nationals who took the government to court argued and contended that the decision of the Home Affairs ministry not to recognise their marriage was unlawful if one adopts the common law principle known as lex loci.

“Supreme Court judgment triggered a strong reaction from various sectors of the Namibian society, ranging from political parties, religious organisations, traditional leaders, trade unions and youth organisations”, Kawana added. He added that steps must be taken to address this development within the letter and spirit of the Namibian constitution and other country laws. Kawana said that Namibia remains a country that respects the rule of law and that democracy is respected.

“Namibia is a country that respects democracy and rule of law. It is imperative that legislative reforms must be put in place in order to make it categorical clear and beyond any shadow of doubt that same sex marriages should not be recognised in Namibia because they are contrary to the culture and norms, tradition, ideology and religious beliefs of the Namibian people” Kawana said.

Kawana further said that Swapo’s stance on same-sex marriage, as reflected in the Swapo Family Act of 1977, is expressed in several laws passed by parliament after Namibia’s independence. “Supreme court failed to consider the fact that even common law principle under the discussion is subject to the requirement that laws of foreign countries on marriage are subjected to the laws of Namibia. Those foreign marriages which conflict with the laws of Namibia cannot be recognised,” Kawana added.

The marriage bill also attempts to modify the common law within the letter and spirit of Article 66(20) of the Constitution. Kawana said under this approach, the common law will merely be modified as it was done in the past when the common law principle of the head of the family or household was altered by the Married Persons Equality Act, 1996 (Act No.1 of 1996, which was passed by parliament.

“The bill also prohibits persons below the age of majority to marry. No parent or minister can grant permission for a child who is below 18 years to marry. Although the age of majority is now eighteen, the bill proposes that a person below the age of twenty-one still requires consent of parents or legal guardian or any authorised person to do so,” Kawana said.

Kawana explained that that is because it is believed that marriage is a huge responsibility that requires parental involvement.