WINDHOEK – The Rights for All Movement (RAM) helpline for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex community has been inundated with calls for various respondents from this key population group according to its director, Wendelinus Hamutenya.
Key populations are people who inject drugs, men who have sex with men, transgender persons, sex workers and prisoners and face much higher rates of HIV and AIDS than the general population.
The cases being handled by the helpline range from alleged rape to children who are disowned by their families due to their sexual orientation.
RAM operates throughout the country with offices in the Society for Family Health (SFH) building.
“We have lot of cases from the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI) community. We have 180 cases of which some were reported to the Namibian police especially those of rape,” Hamutenya told New Era a week ago.
Cases of gay men who were raped were referred to the police while a case of unfair workplace treatment was reported to the Ministry of Labour involving a same-sex male reportedly discriminated by his colleague at work. Other cases were those of children disowned by their families due to their sexual orientation and those of people struggling to accept their sexuality.
“There was a need for us (RAM) to have a helpline for those who cannot help themselves. In cases of rape and brutality we refer it to the police but we are behind those individuals full time,” Hamutenya, the first Mr. Gay Namibia (2011) titleholder said.
According to Hamutenya there is an employee who is gay or lesbian but due to lack of legal framework to protect this group from discrimination in the workplace, “they are side-lined from being promoted, mistreated and are forced to wear what they say is uncomfortable’’.
Article 10 of the Namibian Constitution pertaining to Freedom and Discrimination clearly states all Namibians shall be equal before the law and that no Namibian may be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, creed or economic status.
“The gay employee was discriminated by his colleague and the two fought at work but only him was suspended and we have laid a case of unfair labour practice with the Ministry of Labour,” said Hamutenya who called for an amendment in the Labour Act.
In cases of children been disowned by their parents, Hamutenya says his organisation has spoken with parents about the issue, in some cases parents also discontinue the children’s tuition fees.
He said there is a need to accommodate disowned children at the safe house, adding that when more funding is available they will look into opening a safe house to cater for them. Three young men are said to have committed suicide since last year due to parents not accepting their sexual orientation.
Hamutenya also met Inspector-General of the Namibian Police Force, Sebastian Ndeitunga to discuss some of the challenges faced by the LGBTI community in the country.
RAM was founded in 2011 by Hamutenya and Dr. Johnson Claasen. It is a GBTI (Gay, Bisexual, Transmen and Intersex) and Men having sex with Men (MSM) human rights-based organisation advocating for the rights of these population groups to be heard.
It aims to address, redress and arrest homophobia in the country and promote equal rights regardless of sexual orientation, provide public visibility and educate the public on sexual diversity as well as tolerance. It also offers information on HIV/AIDS, safe sex. Its mission is to also draw together those from sexual minorities through sports and cultural activities. Calls to the helpline have increased as the word about it spread since it was launched last July.