The protest of young people under the banner #ShutItAllDown against sexual and gender-based violence has yielded some results as government looks into filling nearly 160 vacancies within the police's gender-based violence protection unit as a matter of urgency.
Speaking in parliament yesterday, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said the police would identify candidates and train special investigators to fill the vacancies at GBV protection units countrywide. She further indicated the recruitment and training of personnel in the areas of biological trace identification would be prioritised starting this financial year. "We share in the repugnation of the Namibian public at the situation of SGBV and are in full agreement with the public that this situation cannot be allowed to continue," said Kuugongelwa-Amadhila. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila delivered government's response as promised over the weekend in reaction to the petition of the protesters, which was also shared with lawmakers last week.
The protesters, who have vowed to continue with their demonstration until substantive action is taken to address the violence perpetrated against women and children in Namibia, sought numerous demands from the Presidency, ministries of justice, education, police and institutions of higher learning.
The pressure group demanded that government looks into establishing a sexual offender register, review sentencing laws of sex offenders and murderers, expedite all murder and sexual offences cases in trial or under investigations, institute 24/7 armed patrol around all neighbourhoods, and disallow the withdrawal of all cases lodged in respect of the Combating of Rape Act and Domestic Violence Act. Amongst the list of demands, the pressure group wants government to review all school rules that promote slut shaming and victim blaming. This, according to the protesters, will ensure that learners are not suspended from school for speaking up against SGBV.
According to Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, government has already commenced the research on the establishment of the register of sexual offenders, which is provided for under the Domestic Violence Act in respect of sex offenders in cases involving victims below the age of 18 years. The ongoing work include considering the modalities for implementation of the register within the context of the law and the process will be pursued with expediency, according to government.
The National Assembly is currently discussing a motion introduced by Popular Democratic Movement MP Winnie Moongo for the establishment of a sex offender register as part of a solution to curb sexual violence in society. A sex offender register is a portal hosting a national database of convicts in offences concerning sexual violence.
Moongo, who tabled the motion last week, said the register would help to aid law enforcement officers with an eagle's eye over potential danger that may be posed from those who have been convicted of crimes of a sexual nature. According to Kuugongelwa-Amadhila, government will continue to mobilise more financial and logistical resources to enable law enforcement agencies to conduct more operations and patrols as part of crime prevention and SGBV across the country.
Regarding calls to disallow the withdrawal of SGBV cases, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said current legislation was geared towards ensuring that filed cases of SGBV are taken to conclusion, and it goes an extra mile to mitigate against withdrawals by requiring strict procedures before this is allowed.
"Unfortunately, there are instances where in spite of these efforts, lodged cases are withdrawn by victims. While the State has the authority to continue to pursue cases even when withdrawn, and does make strenuous efforts to do so, the conclusion of such cases become difficult, as cases rely on witnesses for conclusion. Prosecution needs cooperation from victims and witnesses to give evidence," explained Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila assured the public that the measures announced and as requested for implementation would be implemented with expediency and commitment.