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AK Namibian Consitution Differs From The USA – Legal Assistance Center on Roe V Wade

By:Justicia Shipena
The gender research and advocacy project coordinator at the legal assistance centre (LAC), Dianne Hubbard, says the United States (US) constitution is very different from the Namibian constitution.
Hubbard was reacting to how the US Supreme Court ending the nearly 50 years of constitutional protection to abortion rights on Friday could impact Namibia.
The court overturned the 1973 Roe versus Wade decision that enshrined a woman’s right to an abortion.
“The US constitution is very different from the Namibian constitution. The provision that relied on Roe v. Wade was the provision of liberty,” said Hubbard.
She added that she hopes the US Supreme Court’s ruling does not impact Namibia on abortion. She also painted the judgment as shocking and based on politics, not legal principles.
She added that Namibia has several other provisions that the US constitution does not have.
“For example, the protection of dignity, which I think is a very important provision. We also explicitly mention privacy in our constitution, which the US constitution does not have,” she said.
She stated that people should recognise the differences between the US and Namibian contexts.
Hence she said she hopes Namibia will look toward its constitution and legal principles when considering this issue.
“The US decision, if we think clearly, should not affect our view of Namibia. Namibia is different in an entirely different context.”
In October last year, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Gender Equality, Social Development and Family Affairs held public hearings with various individuals in Windhoek regarding abortion on demand. The public hearings continued this year in the northern regions.
During the public hearings last year, the justice ministry called for a referendum to put the abortion debate to rest.
The call was made by the ministry’s chief legal officer, Christian Harris, during the second day of the public hearing on legalising abortion.
However, Hubbard said she does don’t believe a referendum is appropriate.
“If we are talking about something that engages constitutional rights, it does not matter whether the majority of the country is in favour or not,” she said.
According to her, constitutional rights are particularly important for people who want to do something or have a lifestyle or opinion that is not that of the majority.
She also said the legislature could be relied upon to protect the majority.
“But we also have to look at people’s rights and maybe to do something that is not popular. One issue we must consider is whether this impinges on a person’s rights? We need to look at our constitution and international commitment and not what’s popular opinion,” she said.
Human rights activist Nicodemus ‘Mama Africa’ Aoxamub says it is a painful situation when it comes to fundamental human rights and freedom for women in this world.
“It is not something that will be affecting Namibia, but I think the US decision will impact fundamentalism,” she said.
She stated that fundamentalism is a problem in Namibia.
“They are the ones that are constantly deciding on what needs to happen in this country. People forget that we are a circular state and not a religious state.”
Aoxamub stressed that church law needs to get off women’s bodies. “Church laws must not decide human beings’ lives,” she said.
Over the weekend, the council of Churches in Namibia secretary-general Ludwig Beukes had said that he does not think the decision taken by the US will affect Namibia’s decision-making regarding whether to legalise abortion or keep it illegal.
Beukes said Namibia signed the Maputo protocol, where countries have agreed to adjust their laws towards safe abortion.
Based on that protocol, Beukes said, Namibia wants to review its policies.
The Maputo Protocol is an international human rights instrument established by the African Union that went into effect in 2005.
Beukes had previously said that he was not worried about the US decision.
Beukes had also emphasised that the church’s stance still stands to protect life, adding that they don’t support abortion on demand.
“Whether it is born or unborn. We are very clear that we support life. We will still support the existing laws but not support abortion on demand.”
Meanwhile, Swapo Party Youth League (SPYL) secretary Ephraim Nekongo said it is a lesson that Namibia must learn from the Americans and that there must be a reason why the US has decided to repel against abortion.
According to Nekongo, one must have both parties’ opinions before deciding the way forward.
Furthermore, he added that Namibia is forced to look at the cause of this fight on legalising abortion before taking any decision.
Nekongo said that America taking a stand against abortion might change Namibians’ view on abortion.
Previously, pro-choice activist Ndiilokelwa Nthengwe told The Villager there is a concern that the US decision on abortion could affect Namibia’s fixed point on abortion.
Human rights activist Linda Baumann had expressed that local anti-abortion advocates would use the USA decision on abortion to paint it as bad. According to her, the anti-abortion activists would use it as a sway.
Baumann aired that the premise of the conversation around abortion in Namibia had created division around bodily autonomy and integrity.

Justicia Shipena

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