How LGBT-friendly is the visiting Namibian president?

Dr. Hage Geingob, the President of Namibia will be visiting San Antonio on September 17 and 18. (Photo: Namibian Embassy USA)

Starting September 17, Mayor Ivy R. Taylor welcomes Namibian President Dr. Hage Geingob to San Antonio for a two-day visit that includes a welcoming ceremony at the airport, a visit to a City Council meeting, a photo op at the Alamo, a business breakfast at the Plaza Club and a speech at the University of the Incarnate Word to the World Affairs Council of San Antonio.

Geingob’s visit is prompted by a Friendship City Agreement which was entered into last April between Namibia’s capital of Windhoek and the City of San Antonio.

Running as a candidate from the SWAPO (South West Africa People’s Organization) Party, Geingob was elected president of Namibia last November with almost 87 percent of the vote. He previously served two terms as prime minister.

In an article in Mamba Online, a South African-based LGBT publication, journalist Clemans Miyanicwe says that Geingob is “a well-known defender of the rights of sexual minorities.” The Mamba article goes on to say:

Wikipedia notes that in Ph.D. thesis Geingob “examined the efforts of Namibians to build a reconciled society…” and “to promote a culture of human rights…”

In 1990, Geingob was reported to have said that although laws against sodomy were in place in Namibia, these had not been used “for the sake of human rights.” It’s also reported that he stated that gays and lesbians are protected under the Namibian Constitution.

Miyanicwe noted, however, that other members of Geingob’s SWAPO party have expressed much less support for LGBT equality.

A posting on the SWAPO website describes a press conference held shortly after the presidential election where a reporter asked what Geingob was going to do to give gays and lesbians “the same rights as other people.”

“My goodness, we are talking about poverty eradication, unemployment, food, and yet my young brother comes up with gay issues! Those are not the issues we are talking about. Those things are luxuries. I am talking about poverty eradication, lack of houses…” Dr Geingob was not yet done with his fierce grilling: “Are you oppressed? Are you suppressed? Are gays oppressed here? Is there any gay who has been arrested here for being gay? Those are issues that you should report to the Police. The Police deal with such cases. Why do you create a problem where there is no problem? When I took my course in social problems, I learned that a social problem is what you make it to be. Even if there is no problem, you just complain and make it a problem. There is no problem. We have problems of poverty eradication, unemployment, lack of houses and so on. These are the issues that I will address once I become President. I was very clear throughout where my focus is: poverty eradication and job creation.”

In Namibia there are no legal protections for sexual orientation or gender identity. Sex between men is against the law but not enforced. Sex between women is legal. Same-sex marriage is illegal and same-sex couples are not allowed to adopt children.

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