By Benjamin Wickham
WINDHOEK, April 11 — In a historic journey to the Supreme Court, two same-sex couples in Namibia, Digashu and Seiler-Lilles, fought for the right to be recognized by the Namibian state. The couples, married to Namibian citizens, were denied immigration into Namibia based on same-sex union statuses that are “not recognized” in Namibian law. This caused tremendous pressure and stress on their relationships, finances, and overall mental health. When they realized they were not afforded that freedom of choice and their rights, they decided to take the matter to court, hoping they would be relieved of all the stress and granted their wish to live freely with their spouses in the country. At the beginning of their court cases, they had been paying legal fees from their savings until they managed to secure financial support from the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), which has since been supporting their litigation journey.
Initially, it seemed like the couples were on their own. However, as the cases started getting interested from the local media, visibility slowly started building momentum, and the cases attracted attention from activists in the country. The couples reached out to some LGBTQI+ organizations when they realized that the battleground they were entering was much bigger than just them. As a result, the cases started garnering immense support from their attorney, the LGBTQI+ community, and organizations that came to their aid.
Fast forward to the pre-Supreme Court hearing, the couples were no longer alone. There was an immense support from their attorney, who held a “pre-hearing dinner” for the litigants, including other couples with ongoing active cases before the courts. The couples felt it was important to meet before the hearing, get a briefing from the legal team, and connect with other litigants fighting the same battle. Having a supportive lawyer has made a world of difference and has kept them going for as long as they have been. It has helped them understand the intricacies of the law and their litigation journey.
During the Supreme Court hearing, the court was at full capacity, with many people standing in the gallery section of the courtroom. A separate court with display screens was allocated for those who could not fit inside the court, and most attendees were from the LGBTQI+ community. The queer people of Namibia, young and not, are fighting not only for their rights but also for their very lives. It was a breath of fresh air to see so many young people from the queer community show up for themselves in unity.
The couples appreciate and treasure the support the LGBTQI+ community has shown towards their court cases and their lives and struggles. The Seiler-Lilles, for example, feel less pressured to automatically become activists because of the number of actual activists currently on the ground, pushing the cases’ visibility and advocating for what the cases mean to the community. The couples agree that the community’s involvement has been of absolute value in their lives and has significantly helped their mental health. They no longer feel like they are carrying the weight of the entire world.
In conclusion, the journey of Digashu and Seiler-Lilles to the Supreme Court of Namibia is a significant milestone in the country’s struggle towards equality and non-discrimination. The couples’ journey has shown the importance of community support in the fight against injustice. The support from the LGBTQI+ community, organizations, and lawyers has made couples feel seen, heard, and valued. The court’s decision on whether to take a step forward for equality or to maintain the discriminatory status quo remains to be seen. However, the couples’ journey has shown that, with community support, anything is possible. – Namibia Daily News