Namibia: Jail Women Withdrawing Cases - Sioka

24 November 2020

Gender minister Doreen Sioka said women who withdrew gender violence-related cases should be jailed, adding they were a shame to the country at large.

"If it is a woman who withdraws a case, she should be in jail on behalf of the man. As a matter of fact, both of them should be in jail because they are disappointing the government," Sioka said yesterday shortly after delivering her keynote address during the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence in Katutura. "It is a shame for a woman to withdraw a case. Men who are abused should also speak up. Speak up if you are being abused by women."

According to the minister, alcohol and substance abuse was among the contributing factors to rising gender-based violence in the country. "It mobilises people and makes them behave in unbecoming ways.

"Let us also work together to expand and intensify the campaign on alcohol misuse in Namibia. Let us stand against alcohol abuse and promote responsible drinking to save our nation," she echoed.

Justice minister Yvonne Dausab said femicide is a reality for Namibian women and it dilutes the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.

She added that the 16 days of activism in its historic context speaks volumes about the plight of women and children.

"As a ministry, we are committed to amending our domestic violence and rape legislation, looking at sentencing, improvement of the text of the law to increase safeguards of protection of children especially those living with disabilities, and provide victim-centred laws," said Dausab before narrating a traumatic experience from her past when she witnessed the horrific death of her aunt.

Dausab said: "My aunt was brutally killed by her jealous boyfriend, stabbed 17 times - and as an eight-year-old, it may not look like this at the moment - my aunt had run into the bedroom and locked it, bleeding to death in this bedroom of ours. A room in which I slept for many nights before but could not sleep in many nights after because I was pushed through the window to open the door, finding my aunt in a pool of blood which had splashed all over the door. The stand-up against GBV is personal and public to me."

Ndiilo Nthengwe of the #ShutItAllDown campaign said a new wave of activism has swept across the country with the birth of their movement and social protests to demand radical change that could put an end to harmful practices and belief systems, which she fears would contribute to the scourge of SGBV.

"Often, it is not the law preventing people from being held accountable, it is the culture of impunity, gatekeeping, silence, one which undermines the laws that are meant to combat SGBV in our communities," she said.

Over a month ago, seething anger over a rise in SGBV in the country spilled into the streets of Windhoek, while scores staged protest marches countrywide, demanding justice and asking government to do more to protect them.

Riot police in Windhoek had to fire teargas to disperse the crowd of activists, who were predominantly young women, under the banner #ShutItAllDown.

The protest action led to a State House meeting where protest leaders met with President Hage Geingob and other senior figures in government.

The government also vowed to intensify the war against violence in the country, by among others, promising to fill nearly 160 vacancies within the police's gender-based violence protection unit as a matter of urgency.

In a speech read on his behalf, police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga said the most pervasive form of GBV is domestic violence perpetrated by an intimate partner. "There is hardly a day that goes by without reports of these types of violent crimes in the media. Thus the Namibian Police Force deemed it necessary to establish the GBV unit that is specialised throughout the country to prevent, detect and investigate GBV crimes," he said.

Namibia has recorded an increase in violent crimes, particularly SGBV, murder, armed robbery and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Ndeitunga said 2 818 rape cases were recorded with the force of which 2 357 involved women and children between January 2018 and September 2020.

He added that within the same period, 94 murder cases were recorded which involved 54 women and children.

Shirley Magazi of the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) said the church has a critical role to play in the prevention and response of GBV in the country and as such, the church pledges her commitment in this fight.

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