Namibia: Trans Women Face Daily Stigma, Harassment

Trans women face daily stigma, harassment

News - Health | 2020-01-22

by Nomhle Kangootui

SHE is tall, slim and eloquent with straight short hair. With her make-up done perfectly, one would never imagine that Ivy Hailombe (33) was born in a boy's body. Hailombe, a beauty consultant based in Windhoek, has been a trans woman for the past 10 years now. She once said during an interview with a local magazine that she never thought she would share her story because of her fear of outsiders. She had a sex change in South Africa and has since been living as a woman.

In 2018, Hailombe survived traumatic experiences trans persons face, such as corrective rape, assault, harassment and stigma. During an interview with The Namibian last month, Hailombe said she considers herself one of the few lucky ones to survive a rape attempt while in a taxi in Katutura, a few years ago.

"As a trans woman in Namibia, who has socially, professionally and medically transitioned, it was extremely traumatising. One of the scariest experiences is when your abductor says I am going to rape you today," Hailombe said.

But she said she had to fight off her abductors with everything she had, although she was overpowered but escaped unharmed.

The Namibia Diverse Women's Association (NDWA) carried out a countrywide survey called the 'Community Mental Health, Gender-Based Violence and Access to Services survey' about a month ago. The results of the survey show that 66% of the respondents in the survey were insulted or verbally harassed because of heir sexual orientation. The survey, which only focused on women within the lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer intersex (LGBTQI) community, reveals that 26% of the respondents did not experience it, while 8% did not give a response.

The strategic coordinator of NDWA, Linda Baumann, says although there is no data and advocacy interventions focused on the overall well-being of LBT in Namibia, within their social and structural settings, "it has been evident that lesbian, bisexual, women having sex with women and trans-diverse persons experience all forms of violence perpetuated from factors influencing homophobia, transphobia and biphobia within the country".

The statistics further show that 33% of the respondents indicated that their intimate partners made them feel worthless or ashamed for being LBT while the majority (62%) did not experience it. No response was given by 5% of the respondents.

She further said that addressing issues of mental health, sexual rights and well-being are key to ensuring the safety, security and access to services for minority women.

Baumann added that when the respondents were asked how many were sexually assaulted by a stranger, 22% of the respondents revealed that they were sexually assaulted, whereas 76% of the respondents did not experience it.

She said 2% of the respondents did not give a response.

National coordinator for NDWA Justine Hamupolo said as lesbian women, "the time has come to zoom into what we experience when it comes to mental health, violence and access to service".

"Life might look easy for us lesbians, bisexual and trans-diverse communities, but truth be told - we endure so much and it goes undocumented. With this study, NDWA hopes to ignite dialogue and critical engagement on how to be inclusive, representative and progressive in our development," Hamupolo said.

The survey also shows that 24% of the respondents were sexually assaulted by someone they lived with and 73% of the respondents did not experience it.

It states that 3% of the respondents did not give a response.

Baumann says although most of the LBT community do not report cases, especially when it comes to assault by an intimate partner, 31% of the respondents were physically assaulted by an intimate partner of the same sex and 67% of the respondents did not experience it, while 2% of the respondents did not give a response.

Understanding terminology of the target group

- Bisexual - A person who is capable of having sexual, romantic and intimate feelings for or a love relationship with someone of the same gender and/or with someone of another gender. Such an attraction to different genders is not necessarily simultaneous or equal in intensity.

- Gender identity - A person's private sense of being male, female or another gender. This may or may not match the biological sex a person was assigned at birth.

- Gender non-conformity - Displaying gender traits that are not normatively associated with a person's biological sex. 'Feminine' behaviour or appearance in a male is considered gender non-conforming, as is 'masculine' behaviour or appearance in a female.

- Hate crime - A criminal offence perceived as being motivated by prejudice or hate. The perpetrators seek to demean and dehumanise their victims, whom they consider different from them based on their actual or perceived race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, disability, health status, nationality, social origin, religious convictions, culture, language or other characteristic.

- Heterosexism - A system of beliefs that privileges heterosexuality and discriminates against other sexual orientations. It assumes that heterosexuality is the only normal or natural option for human relationships and posits that all other sexual relationships are either subordinate to or perversions of heterosexual relationships. In everyday life, this manifests as the assumption that everyone is heterosexual until proven otherwise.

- Heterosexual - Having sexual, romantic and intimate feelings for or a love relationship with a person or persons of a gender other than your own.

- Homophobia - Also termed "homoprejudice". It refers to an irrational fear of and/or hostility towards lesbian women and gay men, or same-sex sexuality generally.

- Intersectionality - The interaction of different axes of identity, such as gender, race, sexual orientation, ability and socio-economic status, in multiple and intersecting ways, resulting in different forms of oppression impacting on a person in interrelated ways.

- Intersex - A term referring to a variety of conditions (genetic, physiological or anatomical) in which a person's sexual and/or reproductive features and organs do not conform to dominant and typical definitions of 'female' or 'male'. Such diversity in sex characteristics is also referred to as 'biological variance' - a term which risks reinforcing a pathologising treatment of differences among individuals, but is used with caution in this document to indicate an inclusive grouping of diversity in sex characteristics, includingintersex individuals.

- Lesbian - A woman who has sexual, romantic and intimate feelings for or a love relationship with another woman (or women).

- Sexual orientation - A person's lasting emotional, romantic, sexual or affectional attraction to others (heterosexual, homosexual/same-sex sexual orientation, bisexual or asexual).

- Transgender - A term for people who have a gender identity, and often a gender expression that is different to the sex they were assigned at birth by default of their primary sexual characteristics. It is also used to refer to people who challenge society's view of gender as fixed, unmoving, dichotomous, and inextricably linked to one's biological sex. Gender is more accurately viewed as a spectrum, rather than a polarised, dichotomous construct. Transgender people can be heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual or asexual.

- Women who have Sex with Women - This is a biomedical term interpreted by behaviour for women who have sex with other women. It is imperative to differentiate between self-identifying lesbian, bisexual and transgender women who identify as homosexual vs women who have sex with other women for sexual gratification.

* The Namibia Diverse Women's Association

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