Police continued to use excessive force against protesters. A cybercrime bill threatened to curtail the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and privacy. Early marriage persisted. Survey results showed that most Nambians believe gender-based violence is common in their communities. Parliament held public consultations on petitions to decriminalize abortion. LGBTI people’s rights were curtailed. Mining companies’ activities threatened to damage the environment and undermine the rights of Indigenous peoples.
Freedom of expression
Excessive use of force
On 13 May, Namibian Police Force officers used excessive force against peaceful protesters in the capital, Windhoek. Local traders were protesting after the authorities destroyed counterfeit goods confiscated from the traders. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at the crowd, injuring protesters. A Namibian Broadcasting Corporation journalist was injured in the leg by a rubber bullet.
In February, the Institute for Public Policy Research raised concerns about the Electronic Transactions and Cybercrime Bill, which was tabled before parliament in the same month. If enacted, it could curtail the rights to freedom of expression, association, assembly and privacy. In particular, concerns were raised over provisions which would allow for arbitrary secret search warrants and grant excessive powers to the minister of information and communication technology.
In March, UNICEF reported that 64,200 girls and women in Namibia were married when they were below the age of 18, and 15,500 of them were below the age of 15. According to UNICEF, 38% of women and girls in early marriages, surveyed in Namibia, reported having experienced gender-based violence, including sexual violence, within the marriage.
In March, research network Afrobarometer released survey findings showing that 57% of Namibians believe that gender-based violence is common in their communities. In one case reported in December, a 32-year-old woman was killed by her intimate partner with an axe.
Sexual and reproductive rights
In June, the CEDAW Committee recommended that the government amend the pre-independence era Abortion and Sterilisation Act (No. 2 of 1975) to decriminalize abortion in all cases, “recognizing” that such criminalization “is a form of gender-based violence against women”. In October, following petitions from women’s rights organizations to decriminalize or legalize abortion, the parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender Equality, Social Development and Family Affairs held public consultations with a view to amending the law.
LGBTI people’s rights
In January, the High Court of Namibia dismissed applications by spouses of Namibian citizens who were seeking to regularize their immigration status on the basis of same-sex marriages concluded outside the country. The court ruled that their marriage status was not recognized under Namibian law. While it expressed sympathy for the couples’ situations, the court said it was bound by a previous Supreme Court judgment.
In July, the High Court dismissed an urgent application made by several organizations, in which they asked the court to stop a Canadian mining company, Reconnaissance Energy Namibia, from continuing its exploration activities in the Kavango regions. Conservation activists and organizations had been challenging the company’s drilling for oil since 2020. Indigenous peoples and local communities continued to express concerns about the potential decline in the water table and loss of valuable wildlife and wild plant products as a result of the operations.