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Out-right Namibia waves the rainbow flag.

THE NAMIBIAN LGBTI COMMUNITY REFUSES TO BE SILENCED BY HOMOPHOBIC AND TRANSPHOBIC HATE SPEECH AND NATIONAL POSITIONING ON THE NON-EXISTENCE OF SEXUALLY DIVERSE PERSONS.

The birth of Out-Right Namibia (ORN) was engineered by self-identified LGBTI persons in 2010. Our mandate: to advocate the legal, social and economic equality and equity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons through strategic advocacy and movement building in the country.

Why is it necessary for Namibian citizens to advocate the rights of equality and nondiscrimination already guaranteed in the Namibian Constitution?

Although the current status of homosexuality is not illegal the prejudice against the practice of sodomy has created a political understanding that homosexuality is illegal. This position impedes on our freedom of expression, association and right to claim our identity as sexual diverse people. Ultimately the political, social, cultural, religious and environmental factors that otherwise silence the voices of LGBTI people in Namibia and disregard their existence necessitate advocacy for constitutional rights and equity of sexual minorities.

In order to get the organisation to be operational, ORN was hosted by the organisation Positive Vibes (PV) until 2013. PV serves to promote positive social change through dialogue as well as be the advocate for people living with HIV.

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Over the years ORN created a number of movement-based activities and advanced alliances with organisations and institutions at national, regional and international level. Through strategic pillars of institutional strengthening, service excellence, emancipation and movement building ORN has been building the movement as well as skills and knowledge of the LGBTI people.

ORN prioritises leadership development, organisational efficiency and sustainability, advocacy in action, well-being service delivery, HIV/AIDS education, human rights and sexuality education and having LGBTI people journey their reality and sexuality through the Looking In-Looking-out (LILO) methodology developed.

The training sessions have empowered about 250 people from the LGBTI community and helped spread ORN's reach and access to the marginalised LGBTI community. In an effort to reach even more communities across Namibia, ORN trains community facilitators, who lead local programming in the Oshana, Erongo, Karas and Oshikoto regions.

Beyond empowering Vmembers of the LGBTI community, ORN has run programmes to increase the knowledge and understanding amongst the public on the issues the LGBTI community deals with and how these issues can be addressed. As a result ORN has resorted to more passive forms of education by making use of brochures, articles and press releases, as well as more participatory educational events and projects. These have included events such as the Information Fun Day, Trans Remembrance Day, Orange Day and Pink Evening with Friends and Family, all designed to establish an enabling and friendly environment as well as bring the LGBTI community together. Other more structured education events such as panel discussions, human rights and sexuality training, ORN's participation in various expos, and community engagement meetings provide an avenue for the public to learn more about the organisation and the specific issues it focuses on.

In order for ORN to serve the LGBTI community in Hardap and //Kharas region, ORN is in the process of opening an office at Keetmanshoop. The aim is to strengthen the relationships a nd advance collective community dialogues and advocacy engagement. Beyond the Keetmanshoop office the growing LGBTI community in Namibia indicates the importance of establishing a national LGBTI alliance. This alliance would further strengthen the existing Human Rights Violations Documentation programme and develop a national advocacy agenda.

Namibia has not demonstrated interest in discussing issues of sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. This is evident from conversation on sexual reproductive health and rights, which avoids the fact of LGBTI orientation. The mere discussion of sexual and reproductive health and rights are expected to pass as the acknowledgement of ensuring all persons' bodily autonomy is respected. But if one's sexual orientation or preference is not specifically recognised then such a discussion was once again not inclusive. This pretence of inclusion and protection has devastating consequences for those who face the discrimination, stigmatisation, prejudice and violations due to this unwritten non-protection.

photographs ORN
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Author:Baumann, Linda Renate
Publication:Sister Namibia
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Jan 1, 2016
Words:677
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