by Max Fuchs, 27/12/2021
In the last week of my stay in Namibia in the end of September 2021, I met Karin from Out-Right Namibia (ORN) in her office. Karin is a monitoring evaluations officer at the LGBTQI+ NGO and told me about the organization‘s work, the struggles of Corona and the possible abolishing of the Sodomy Law.
The need for representation
ORN was founded in 2010 after the closure of The Rainbow Project which was Namibia‘s first queer-specific NGO. “There was a need for the community to come together and for representation“, Karin explains the situation back then. Today, ORN is a LGBTQI+ human rights organization which is movement based and has members in all 14 Namibian regions. Their mission is to get Namibian LGBTQI+ entitled to fully human and constitutional rights. Therefore, they strive to abolish the Sodomy Law and the Immoral Practices Act of 2000 as well as to amend The Domestic Violence Act of 2003 and the Labour Act to include protection for LGBTQI+ in their homes and at work. ORN works together with different donors and stakeholders.
“It‘s like a boiling pot waiting to explode“
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic funding is scarce, Karin mentions the financial problems currently. It would not be easy for the NGO since the funders are more involved in the fight against Covid-19 now. Usually, funding focused on HIV/AIDS mostly. Now, NGOs have to make sure their work also includes issues around Covid-19. Having less money affects the community because it means less money for food banks or to get someone to a clinic. “We are lucky to keep it up. Head above water“, she comments.
Besides, Corona highly impacts the mental health of the community. Mental health problems in the queer community rocket more than ever. The country‘s movement regulation measures caused high cases of mental instability, Karin explains. She gives me a few examples why people struggle with their mental health at the moment.
Trans women already struggled with dysphoria before the pandemic. Since Corona, many of them – like also other queers – have been stuck in houses where they are not accepted and safe. They are restricted to not move around. Additionally, people cannot do their small businesses in the informal sector and also not look for jobs because the companies are also struggling and cannot hire people. Many even had to fire people. Some queers have been the bread winners at home, now they are in overcrowded areas where they do not feel comfortable. They wanna get out but where shall they go? “We know that before Corona there have been mental health issues but now it’s a double intake for the queer community“, she states. Homeless people are affected negatively, too. They do not have places to go after the beginning of curfew but if the police sees them outside, the police does not ask questions but puts them into jail. There are even cases of police brutality. Karin gives me one more example out of a lesbian context. Lesbian women are at risk to get raped, even in their own homes. However, they usually cannot talk to the police because officers would blame them for acting like a man. Trans women also often face discrimination instead of getting help at the police stations and are sent home to dress like the officers expect them to look like due to the sex stated on their papers.
All those circumstances cause stress for queer people and lead to more alcohol misuse and higher rates of attempted suicides during the Corona pandemic. ORN usually refers queers with the need for mental health support to ChildLine/LifeLine but many people would not finish their sessions. ORN still tries to figure out the reasons.
“For now, we observe“
Asking Karin about the proposed abolishing of the Sodomy Law by the Minister of Justice and what ORN‘s expectations regarding the process are, she explains that for ORN it would be up to the Ministry of Gender Justice how this will be done. From ORN‘s perspective they would wait if they get invited to the tables as a NGO and asked for advice. Something they would do. Now, the ministries would need to do their parts of the procedure. ORN observes what the parliament will decide. “We hope it will be a positive outcome because we know if this goes positive the rest will fall in place.“