Protest against homophobic domestic violence bill
17 March 2021 | Crime
The justice ministry is under pressure to tweak an amended domestic violence bill to ensure protection for all victims of domestic violence despite the gender of their abusive partner.
A petition demanding equal access to justice and protection for all Namibians from violent partners is slowly gathering momentum with protests planned for next month.
The petition, titled #EqualProtectionNamibia demands that government removes the phrase “being of different sexes” included in the combating of domestic violence amendment bill tabled last month by justice minister Yvonne Dausab.
Florence /Khaxas of the Y-Fem Namibian Trust says in addition to the petition, the organisers are also planning peaceful protests at Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Gobabis and Keetmanshoop.
“We are calling on Namibians to share their realities of why it is important for the language of the Combating of domestic violence amendment bill to be changed as currently it violates the constitution.”
She highlights that the lack of equal protection for couples in same-sex relationships was highlighted by the United Nations Human Rights Committee in 2016. The committee at the time stressed that same-sex relationships should be included in the amended combating of domestic violence act.
Shortly after Dausab tabled the bill before parliament on 18 February, a ruckus erupted on the bill’s discrimination against individuals who are in same-sex partnerships and, by way of the phrase “different sexes”, excluded from protection in the bill.
“Regardless of the attitudes of individual members of parliament about same-sex relationships, it is shocking that parliament is unwilling to extend the act’s protection against domestic violence to same-sex couples,” the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) said at the time.
LAC’s Dianne Hubbard said the simple step of removing the phrase would ensure protection for all. She also stressed that the LAC supports the amendment bill in general, but was shocked that “parliament is unwilling to extend the act’s protections against domestic violence to same-sex couples.”
She noted that the widely held anti-LGBTQ stance in parliament should have no bearing on tweaking the bill.
“It would not, as some believe, have any bearing on same-sex marriage, since the law covers married and unmarried persons. The phrase appears only in respect of romantic relationships and persons who cohabit. Nothing would change regarding marriage. So it should not even be controversial.”
Hubbard underlined that refusing to extend protection under the amended law to persons in same-sex relationships undermines the constitutional rights that all persons are equal before the law.
“The law as it stands suggests that some people are more worthy of protection from violence than others. This is why I believe it is unconstitutional.”
To date, the justice ministry has declined to comment on the criticism and concerns of the inherent discrimination against the LGBTI community contained in the bill.
At the tabling of the bill, justice minister Dausab underlined that domestic violence and discrimination against women and children has reached alarming levels.
She stressed that Namibia’s constitution “guarantees not only the equality of all persons, irrespective of sex, before the law, but it also provides for freedom from discrimination.”
In April 2019, Dausab, then the chairperson of the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC), spoke about the shortcomings of Namibia’s legislative frameworks pertaining to equal rights under the law for LGBTI plus communities in Namibia.
At a roundtable discussion hosted by the Office of the Ombudsman on sexual orientation and gender identity, she said there are “glaring exclusions” in the country’s legislative framework that limits adequate safeguards to protect the LGBTI community.
She warned that “because the protection is not there,” it opens the door for discrimination, victimisation and vilification to LGBTI persons.