New Era (Windhoek)

7 September 2011

Namibia: Male Dominance Drives Passion Killings

Windhoek — Clinical psychologist Dr Shaun Whittaker says the increasing number of passion killings in Namibia are to do with the patriarchal society structures of male dominance and the generally high prevalence of violence in the country.

At least a woman is killed each week or second week in Namibia, usually at the hands of her husband or boyfriend, who normally kills himself out of fury afterwards.

The reason for killing is normally attributed to break-ups or women not wanting to continue because of abusive relationships.

"Men feel they have to be dominant in relationships. It is a very autocratic approach and they expect women to be submissive. Of course the other partner is not going to be happy if they have to be submissive. This risks conflict," Whittaker said.

He said men generally do not how to handle their emotions, conflict or anger and this creates a lot of problems.

"Men see women as their property they can dispose of anyway they want. That seems to be the underlying level," explained the clinical psychologist.

Whittaker said the most worrying factor is the military mindset prevalent in Namibia.

Namibia comes from decades of war, as colonialism in the country was very militaristic and in addition, he said, the country has never sufficiently remedied post-war trauma, especially among former combatants.

"The way to resolve this trauma is usually violence. It's very frightening - these are normal men and not psychiatric patients," Whittaker said.

The month of October is labelled suicide month, when a lot of suicides occur.

Whittaker said the reason for this could be a combination of things.

"Grades 10 and 12, university examinations, people that are burnt out at work, financial stress. It seems to peak around October," he noted. He said the time is especially very dangerous for women.

Whittaker is of the opinion the male role should be transformed into a much healthier gender role and thereby transform the patriarchal society in general. The psychologist calls for equality for all people, especially for women by treating them as equals and giving them equal opportunities with men.

"We still have a long way to go. It is a structural, organised symbolic violence,"

Whittaker said during the interview with New Era.

He advised women to first know a man before making a commitment.

"When you want to break up, take some precautions perhaps. Get out of town for a while, alert the police, inform your family, have an alarm system, even pepper spray," Whittaker advised.

According to recent reports, nearly 850 attempted suicides were reported to the Ministry of Health in the eleven months between 2010 and 2011, while an average of three people attempt suicide in the mental health unit at the Windhoek Central Hospital each week during the same period.

According to the Ministry of Health and Social Services, suicide is the leading cause of death in Namibia and it "is on the increase". Whittaker, who researches suicide issues in Namibia, said recently Namibia has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. Police statistics show that Namibia's suicide rate is significantly higher than the world average of 16 suicides out of 100 000 people.

Erongo Region has the highest rate, with 150 attempted cases of suicide followed by the Kavango Region where 130 people tried to commit suicide.

A hundred and six attempted suicides were recorded in Oshana, 94 in Otjozondjupa, 65 in Khomas, 63 in Hardap, 53 in the Caprivi, 50 in Omusati and 38 in the Kunene Region.

Twenty-six people tried to commit suicide each in the Karas, Omaheke and Ohangwhena regions while 22 attempted suicide in the Oshikoto Region.

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