Pancho Mulongeni: The right to have little squirts

Much to do in this November. The approach of the festive season draws near thoughts of our family. I love November because it is also focused on the health of men, especially that of older men who are at risk of cancers. Movember began in Melbourne, Australia, to raise the awareness about cancers in men, particular prostate cancer. Melbourne is one of the most romantic cities in the world, which I can attest to having walked its streets myself.

The prostate gland resides at the back of the bladder and it has a number of functions, mainly the release of seminal fluids that nourish sperm. There would be no surprises then, why Melbournians, who live in a city rated as the best place to live in the world – for obvious reasons –  would wish to protect the sensitive prostate – try conceiving without one.

Yes, if you are a man and move to Melbourne with you wife, conceiving may be as pleasant as a walk down streets that evoke Paris of the 19th century. But just as Melbourne offers romance to those who are not heterosexual, conception is also there for same-sex couples.

There are ways to conceive in a test-tube – even Namibians formerly in exile have benefited form these technologies. By the time they had returned to Namibia, they were older than the peak reproductive age, which is where in vitro fertilization comes in, facilitating an otherwise, but not impossible conception. And there are pay offs to the body as well:  infrequency of ejaculation in man plays a part in the prostate cancer puzzle. Another reason, then, that all people who have a prostate put it to work, so it is healthy in older age.

How glad I was when the High Court of Namibia ruled on the 19th October this year in favor of two gay dads against the Ministry of Home Affairs. The question at stake was the paternity of their first son, conceived via in vitro fertilization and borne via surrogacy. This gave the child citizenship, on the grounds of descent, as the Namibian constitutions stipulates for children of Namibian parents. However, it also set a precedent stating that two men who find the means to ejaculate into cups, have a fertility expert mix their spermatozoa, only one of which will fertilize a donor egg, have every right to do so.

Perplexed I was when the Ministry of Home Affairs decided to appeal against the High Court’s ruling earlier this year. The appeal is not just denial of the right to a family and citizenship. It discourages more men from ejaculating into cups; it discourages them from becoming dads; it goes against our hopes of preventing prostate cancer (a nod here to my Catholic teachings, which only allow for ejaculation in the context of procreation).

This was almost as ironic as the watermark of the letter detailing the appeal – “my Namibia, my Pride”, it read. I would ask team Namibia to update our motto to say “We prost(r)ate ourselves before the shrine of the unknown soldier”. Hopefully then we would honor not only those who fell in batter during the liberation struggle, but also those lost to cancer. Today, Friday 19 November, our local made Kapana film goes to the North East Film festival here in the UK. I thought of driving to what the English call “the north” to attend, as the Namibian in the audience. But if anyone from home were in attendance, they would point out that, but for the fact I am part of the LGBT community, I am hardly part of the realities of Kapana. However, that is fine, I share a great deal in common with Phillip Lühl, who has to take on Home Affairs in the appeal in the year to come (yes, there is a pun). I did not grow up in the parts of Windhoek where Kapana takes place. Plus, I hardly took part in any Sunday sessions at single quarters. Like Phillip, I work at an academic institution, and all of my university training took place outside the country. But unlike myself, Phillip chose to build his life in the country of his birth, rather than move to the global north. Will I go for the screening? Would I be a genuine ambassador for the queer community if I were to go? Right now, I’m checking if one of commercial fertility clinics is open. In solidarity with the ordeal my friends are going through, I will probably decide to stay in London and find a place to squirt – in a cup of course.

[Guest post by Pancho Mulongeni]