Dausab v The Minister of Justice

Judgment of the High Court of Namibia's decision striking down laws that criminalised same-sex intimacy.

In June 2024, the High Court of Namibia struck down laws that criminalised same-sex intimacy finding that the laws amounted to unfair discrimination and were therefore unconstitutional and invalid.

In their judgment, the three-judge bench of the High Court of Namibia held that “the enforcement of the private moral views of a section of the community (even if they form the majority of that community), which are based to a large extent on nothing more than prejudice” is not justifiable, and that criminalising gay men “poses a greater threat to the fabric of society as a whole than tolerance.”

Same-sex intimacy between men was initially criminalised in Namibia under colonial rule. Namibia maintained the ‘sodomy’ and ‘unnatural sexual offences’ laws when it gained independence from South Africa in 1990, despite the laws being held unconstitutional by the South African courts soon thereafter. Although only men were criminalised, the whole LGBT community was affected by the stigma and discrimination these laws enable.

The pioneering legal case, brought by a prominent and respected LGBT activist, Friedel Dausab, was filed in June 2022 and heard by the High Court of Namibia in October 2023. The case challenged the compatibility of the criminal laws with fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution of Namibia.