We, as concerned human rights defenders and civil society organisations protecting and promoting human rights in Namibia, hereby condemn the gross dehumanization, unlawful detention and torture of a transwoman on a farm near Gobabis several weeks ago, which was filmed and circulated widely on social media. We also note with grave concern, the ensuing homo and transphobic commentary and attacks in our communities following the circulation of the video clip.
On Tuesday, 28 April 2020, a video clip showing a transwoman tied to a chair and tortured by Chief Frans Goagoseb also known as “Ou Migub” was circulated and went viral across Namibia and the world. In the video Chief Goagoseb, a Khomanin Traditional Authority, former presidential candidate in 2009 elections and current ruling party activist in the Omaheke region can be seen using a donkey whip to torture a confession of allegedly misleading them online from the tied-up survivor, while calling her a dog, a “moffie” and ignoring her reverberating outcry and plea for help. He is aided by an unmasked person acting as videographer and another onlooker. Following the release of the video, the survivor has been subjected to community wide scrutiny, threats and further discrimination, exacerbating the trauma she currently faces and will continue to face.
We commend the rapid response from the Ministries of Justice and Gender, the Namibian police and law enforcement agents for ensuring that the perpetrator and accomplices were apprehended. Criminal charges have been opened against the assailants and, despite the lack of safe houses and shelters, especially catering for transwomen, the survivor of this violent act has been relocated to a place of safety and psychosocial support has been provided.
Despite this, it is prudent to note that such barbaric acts by Mr. Frans Goagoseb is a gross abuse of authority and power as well as a clear demonstration of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment as per Art. 8 of the Namibian Constitution. As a secular and democratic state, Namibia promotes and protects the fundamental rights and freedom of ALL CITIZENS – irrespective of race, creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, age – as enshrined in our Constitution’s “Bill of Rights”.
This act of torture highlights the gross abuse of power, and its imbalance, where someone entrusted with authority used it to subjugate a member of an already marginalized group. We would like to draw attention to Chapter 3 of our Constitution -a chapter underscoring and cementing the Fundamental Rights and Freedoms of all citizens, in which lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) Namibians are included. As a country we have been progressive in policy and law, however, the widespread hate speech, transphobic attacks, ‘legitimisation’ and sensationalism of the tortuous act, by the community and online responses, removes the human dignity of the survivor and violates so many of the rights that we all expect for the advancement and betterment of our country. The fact that Chief Goagoseb felt it fitting to threaten the survivor with police intervention during the assault speaks to prevailing othering of LGBT persons, erroneously justified by punitive, discriminatory colonial penal code and laws against LGBTIQ+ people – the misapplication of the law and legal parameters to justify torture.
While the attack has been against one person, the video has fuelled an ever-ready onslaught of trans- and homophobic hate speech, directed to the transgender community.
As a collective, we believe equality and freedom from discrimination is a fundamental right and principle that would guide the justice proceedings which will emerge from this case. All persons are equal before the law and are entitled to its equal protection. We have faith in our criminal and civil justice system in which we hope to see access to justice and the right to information attained at all times.
To address this, and ensure that we end these heinous crimes against vulnerable Namibians, we call on:
- Namibian government to stand by its zero-tolerance stance against human rights violations, including those faced by the LGBTI community.
- The Namibian government and the nation at large to restrain from homophobic and transphobic hate speech, harassment and discrimination towards members of the LGBT community.
- The Namibian media to ethically and objectively report on the case by avoiding sensational headlines and misrepresentation of the gender identity/gender expression of members of the transgender community.
Lastly, we call on our fellow Namibian brothers and sisters to spread love, acceptance and unity, and advance the protections of all our vulnerable and marginalized community members.
This statement is supported by:
- Transgender, Intersex and Androgynous Movement of Namibia
- Wings to Transcend Namibia
- Rights Not Rescue Trust
- Namibia Diverse Women’s Association
- Y-Fem Namibia
- Positive Vibes
- AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
- Gender Dynamix
- The Human Dignity Trust
- Diversity Alliance of Namibia
- Southern African Trans Forum
For more information contact:
The AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa
Tel: +264 813488867
Transgender, Intersex and Androgynous Movement of Namibia
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel: +264 813999114
* ARASA is a member of the ACTION Namibia Coalition, a network of civil society organisations campaigning for a legal framework that supports the right to access to information in Namibia