Namibian gay Hamutenya speaks out

2012-02-07 09:36

kalahari.com

Windhoek - When Wendelinus Hamutenya told his father that he was gay, the then 18-year-old was packed off to the psychiatric ward of the Windhoek Central Hospital.

Seven years later, he's the country's most visible gay man, after winning the inaugural "Mr Gay Namibia" pageant - which will make him the first black African to compete for the title of Mr Gay World in neighbouring South Africa in April.

"Winning the Mr Gay Namibia title has brought the topic about gays and the whole [gay] community more into the open and I received congratulations from all sectors, also straight people - it was like a breakthrough," the shy 25-year-old Hamutenya told AFP.

But the breakthrough came with a backlash. Two weeks after winning the title in November, he was beaten by two men who demanded a slice of his prize money.

Neighbours noticed the commotion and rushed into the street to save him. The two assailants escaped, while Hamutenya was hospitalised with bruised ribs and cuts to his nose and forehead that are still visible.

"I laid a case at the nearest police station. I went there a few days ago to hear what progress was made since two months have passed. Police told me the docket got lost," he told AFP.

Still, he said the response to his victory and the attack - which sparked an outcry among gay groups and more broadly on Facebook - showed how far Namibia has come.

Heartbreaking

Namibia still has a 1927 sodomy law dating from South African rule. The law is rarely enforced, but in the first decade after independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990, top Namibian leaders repeatedly railed against gays.

"Homosexuals must be condemned and rejected in our society," then president Sam Nujoma said in 1996.

"Police are ordered to arrest you and deport you and imprison you," he said five years later.

In 2000, cabinet minister Jerry Ekandjo said police must "eliminate" gays "from the face of Namibia" and even kill their dogs.

It was in that environment that Hamutenya's father had him hospitalised.

"At 16, I noticed my attraction to boys and men, and when 18, while still at school, I told my father, who promptly phoned the police to take me to the psychiatric ward of the Windhoek Central Hospital," Hamutenya said, his soft brown eyes becoming sad.

"It was very heartbreaking to go through all that."

After a few days, he ran away from the hospital and stayed with friends. Quite a while later his father sent for him and they reconciled. He said his mother, four siblings and the extended family also accept him now.

For Christmas, he returned to the village where he herded cattle as a boy, and received a celebrity welcome.

Troubled and scared

"The school kids almost treated me like a pop star. I had to give autographs on school shirts," he said.

His experience remains the exception.

Linda Baumann, director of gay group Outright Namibia, said many lesbians and gay men still enter straight marriages to bow to conventions, while lesbians face the threat of rape from men seeking to "cure" them.

"If lesbians want to lay a charge with the police, they say 'you asked for it' and dockets go missing," Baumann said.

Hamutenya said he hopes his experiences will make it easier for Namibians to come out.

"There are still so many fellow Namibians hiding their gay or lesbian status from family members, but being like that is not a choice one makes, you are born gay or lesbian," he said.

"Since I became Mr Gay Namibia I receive a lot of calls from teenage boys and young men who realise they are either gay or bi-sexual, but are confused, troubled and scared to come out," he said.

"So I would like to visit different parts of Namibia and speak to people about acceptance and tolerance."

- SAPA

Read more on:    namibia  |  southern africa  |  gay rights
NEXT ON NEWS24X

SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Parow - 06:31 AM
    Road name: N1 Inbound
    DELAYS between Plattekloof Road and the N7 Highway
  • Thursday Cape Town - 06:30 AM
    Road name: N2 Inbound
    DELAYS between Duienfontein Road and the Jan Smuts Drive exit
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2 TV Series for R250

Get 2 TV Series box sets for R250 and save up to R148! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Pre-order the Xbox One

Get this all-in-one entertainment system with live TV, movies, social networking and gaming. Pre-order now!

Up to 50% off hair care products!

Save up to 50% on professional hair care products at kalahari.com. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

30% off academic books

Score a mind blowing 30% off academic books! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing deals on electronics!

Save up to 35% on electronics. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold 9780

BlackBerry 6 Engage your world with BlackBerry 6 OS on the...

From R3049.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Your heart is big and you are sensitive to the needs of those around you. Your humanitarian side is emphasized today and you may...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.