Namibia: We Are Not the Enemy - PM

PRIME minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila says the government is not the enemy in the fight against gender-based violence.

Kuugongelwa-Amadhila yesterday said the government was equally concerned about the recent surge in cases related to sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) and considers it as of "grave national concern".

The prime minister made these remarks in the National Assembly, responding to a petition by disgruntled anti-SGBV activists which was submitted to parliament last week.

"We want to assure our sisters, our mothers, our daughters as well as our brothers that we are not in disagreement with them, and we are not in conflict with them. We share their anger. We are not the enemy. The enemy is sexual and gender-based violence, and we want to hold hands with them so that we can tackle this enemy against the Namibian people," she said.

She reiterated that something needs to be done to address the spike in SGBV cases, including strengthening existing legal and policy frameworks.

"Sexual and gender-based violence is a human right violence and it calls for urgent, bold, consistent and coordinated efforts by all stakeholders to effectively address it," she said.

On the request to establish a sexual offenders' register, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the issue will be dealt with after a motion on this subject is concluded.

She said the government has, however, started with research on the topic.

"The register is provided for under the Domestic Violence Act in respect of the Sex Offenders Act, which is cases involving victims below the age of 18," she said.

In terms of laws regarding convicted sex offenders, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the government would work to ensure capacity-building for efficient investigation to support perpetrators being held accountable effectively.

The current law provides that convicted sex offenders receive a punishment of up to 37-and-a-half years.

A convicted offender must serve at least 25 years before being eligible to be considered for parole.

The prime minister said the government would compile a database of all active cases on court rolls.

The government would also contact each victim's family to update them on the status of cases and to provide psychosocial support to prepare them for trial, she said.

Other instruments in place include the system which separates non-repeat offenders from others.

This allows prison authorities to discharge correctional and rehabilitation programmes for offenders according to their classification.

"Offenders who are serving sentences of 18 months and longer are kept at different correctional facilities where they are held according to a classification which considers factors such as current offence, offence history, sentence length and age of offending."

To the request to release the names of sex offenders who have had relationships with pupils, the prime minister said: "Those expelled from this office are barred from entering the teaching profession in the government for at least eight years."

She said institutions of higher learning have also adopted measures to curb such unethical conduct through a code of conduct to deal with disciplinary issues. Furthermore, she said the government has already adopted laws, policies and action plans, including the Domestic Violence Act and the Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Action plan.

Some of these programmes are being implemented, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said.

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