More than a 100 people took part in the first major Pride parade in Namibia’s capital city, Windhoek. While there have been other LGBT marches and protests, Saturday’s procession was the first to take place along Independence Avenue, the city’s main thoroughfare.
The atmosphere was mostly jubilant, with participants chanting “We are one,” and onlookers applauding and cheering. Though News24 reports some spectators yelled slurs at the Pride marchers, there were no incidents or arrested during the parade, which had a police escort.
Homosexuality is technically not illegal in Namibia, though male sodomy is punishable by a jail sentence. (There is no law regarding sex between women.) That statute is rarely enforced—more often, openly LGBT Namibians face harassment and discrimination.
“The request is not for marriage,” said Friedel Dausab, director of Out-Right Namibia. “The request is for some legal protection to couples that live together.”
The parade was proceeded by a week of events, including parties and a panel on “The impact of Homophobic and Transphobic rhetoric on the LGBTQ community in Namibia.”
While the situation for LGBT people in less than ideal, it’s greatly improved in recent years. In 2000, Home Affairs Minister Jerry Ekandjo urged police cadets to “eliminate [gays and lesbians] from the face of Namibia” and, a year later, President Sam Nujoma threatened anti-gay in Namibia.
But current president Hage Geingob has spoken in support of about human rights and was called “a well-known defender of the rights of sexual minorities” by LGBT outlet Mamba Online. And McHenry Venaani, president of the opposition Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) Party, has said Namibians should be allowed to live their private lives without interference, as well.
Still, a 2016 poll found that 55% of Namibians would welcome not mind having a gay neighbor.
Namibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990 and, like its neighbor, the LGBT community there is mostly divided along racial lines: LGBT Namibians of European descent are generally better paid and educated, and more accepted in their circles.
The winner of the first-ever Mr. Gay Namibia in 2011, Wendelinus Hamutenya, was also the only black contestant. Sadly, he was robbed and brutally beaten by two men after taking the crown.