Namibia

Last Updated 27 October 2020

The Republic of Namibia is a democratic and secular sovereign state with a population of approximately 2.6 million. Approximately 80% are reportedly Christian, with the remaining 10-20% holding traditional indigenous beliefs while a small minority of around 1-3% are said to be Muslim.1https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/wa.html

The country gained independence from South Africa in March 1990, and is a member of the UN, South African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and the Commonwealth of Nations.

 
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory
Free and Equal

Constitution and government

Despite Namibia being a deeply religious country, the Constitution2https://laws.parliament.na/namibian-constitution/ and other laws enshrine secularism, freedom of religion and expression (Article 1). The preamble to the Constitution recognises “the right of the individual to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of race, colour, ethnic origin, sex, religion, creed or social or economic status” and in practise these principles are generally upheld.

Article 19 of the Constitution includes a broad and vigorous proclamation that “every person shall be entitled to enjoy, practise, profess, maintain and promote maintain and promote any culture, language, tradition or religion”. This is further ratified in Article 21 which explicitly includes the “freedom of thought, conscience and belief” and “freedom to practise any religion and to manifest such practice”. These rights are subject to limitations if they threaten the sovereignty and integrity of the Republic.

The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion or creed, among other characteristics (Article 10).

The government does not require religions to register in order to be recognised by the state, and they are able to identify as voluntary associations. Registration with the Ministry of Industrialization, Trade, and SME (small to medium enterprise) Development affords them with tax exemptions. 3https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/namibia/

Education and children’s rights

Under the Constitution, primary education is compulsory for all. The government school curriculum contains a non-sectarian religious and moral education component that includes education on moral principles and human rights and introduces students to a variety of African traditions and religions, as well as world religions such as Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, the Baha’i Faith, and Rastafarianism.4https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Education/Training/thirdphase/ProgressReport/Governments/Namibia_3rdphasemidterm_2017.pdfhttps://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/namibia/

Further, Article 20(4)(c) of the Constitution states that religious organizations may establish schools provided that “no restrictions of whatever nature are imposed with respect to the admission of pupils based on race, colour or creed.”

Family, community and society

Reports of any discrimination based on religious belief or societal abuses to freedom of thought are hard to come by, and accounts generally suggest that matters are generally peaceable in this regard.

Relations between different faiths and denominations appear to be amicable, the state consults annually with religious leaders; although it is unclear what level of influence they have on policy making.5https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-report-on-international-religious-freedom/namibia/

Homosexuality

Homosexuality remains illegal based on the common law offence of committing “an unnatural sex crime”, though this is generally not enforced.6https://www.equaldex.com/region/namibia There is, however, a persistent cultural sense of social prejudice reported by members of the LGBTQ+ community, resulting in some reports of street attacks.7https://freedomhouse.org/country/namibia/freedom-world/2020

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom House has reported that self-censorship is common in state media, however, private media remains critical of the government.8https://freedomhouse.org/country/namibia/freedom-world/2020

In a landmark victory for media freedom, the Supreme Court in April 2019 upheld a 2018 high court judgment which rejected Namibia’s Central Intelligence Services request to ban the Patriot newspaper from publishing a story revealing improper use of public funds.

According to Freedom House:9https://freedomhouse.org/country/namibia/freedom-world/2020

“In January 2019, Minister of Information and Communication Technology (MICT) Stanley Simataa warned citizens against insulting leaders. In June, members of SWAPO tabled a motion in Parliament calling for the regulation of social media to address perceived abuses, including insults of political leaders. The government has reportedly acquired significant capabilities to conduct surveillance of citizens on various forms of communication. However, the legal framework for doing so remains questionable.”

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