19. February 2014

Nghidinwa admits govt failed on violence

GENDER Equality and Child Welfare Minister Rosalia Nghidinwa has admitted that programmes meant to address the prevalent gender-based violence (GBV) in the country have all failed, and has urged parents to instil cultural values in their children and church leaders to be involved in the fight against women abuse.

Nghidinwa’s admission came after the recent killing of a 24-year-old Oshakati woman, Mirjam Nandjato, and that of 28-year-old Helena Shivute in Omusati Region last Thursday.

One of the programmes she said has failed is the Zero Tolerance Campaign on GBV, which was set up to educate members of the society, law enforcement agencies and service providers, on strategies of fighting all forms of GBV.

Another unsuccessful programme is the Legal Literacy Programme, whose objective is to educate the general public - both young and old, and traditional leaders - on the existing government structures for protecting vulnerable members of the society in line with the country’s Constitution and other legal instruments.

“To be honest the programmes the ministry has introduced failed and booklets we produced on Gender Based Violence are just lying around here. We are, however, working on an aggressive media campaign, using radio, newspapers, television and different media tools, to get the message across,” Nghidinwa said.

She said the ministry plans to conduct a survey among prison inmates who committed crimes such as rape and murder to understand their circumstances and social set ups before, during and after carrying out these criminal acts.

“We want to analyse their surroundings, childhood and economic situations among other issues. We want to take this information and provide it to the public to enable them to look out for signs that could lead to these violent acts,” Nghidinwa explained.

Although the police refused to provide statistics this week on the number of passion killings over the years, with police spokesperson Edwin Kanguatjivi saying the officer who works in the statistics department does not want to provide the figures, The Namibian understands that in 2012 alone 32 cases were reported.

Women Solidarity of Namibia, an organisation which monitors violence committed against women and girls, said in 2013, 15 women were murdered by their partners, while so far this year, 10 cases of women and girls were reported, who have either been raped or killed, or both.

At the Windhoek Magistrate’s Court in Katutura, 94 cases of domestic violence have been recorded so far this year, while 724 cases were received last year in Khomas Region alone.

A court official, who asked not to be named, said 80% of women involved withdraw their cases, only to come back a few days later to open other cases against the same men.

“We talk to them not to withdraw the cases but they come up with all kinds of excuses such as ‘he is the breadwinner’ or ‘he has apologised’, just to see them coming back a few days later,” the official said, adding that there is nothing they can do about it.

Police Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga also repeated the court official’s concerns, saying he felt there should be a law, which stops women from withdrawing domestic violence cases, even after they have been subjected to pressure by family members.

“We get a lot of cases opened by women only for them to withdraw the cases and then days later you hear she has been killed. This law must not allow women to withdraw cases. As soon as she or he lays a case, the State should take over, so that the suspect is not released until they face the law,” Ndeitunga suggested.

Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) secretary general Maria Kapere called on pastors “to get more involved, get in the streets and get dirty” to help fight GBV.

Kapere said most pastors and female leaders in the community have shown no interest to address these issues.

“We have tried for months to hold meetings with pastors and women but they don’t come to these meetings. So I am calling especially on pastors, since churches have a role to play in society, to get more involved. We need to know our communities and work with them and not preach on Sundays and end there,” Kapere said.

She said CCN is working on a programme to change people’s mindsets, and that the programme will be launched within the next two months.

Gender activist Rosa Namises, meanwhile, has accused government of not doing enough to stop the brutal killings of women, saying there is no time for coming up with programmes but that people must act.

“There is a war against women and Cabinet should declare a state of emergency. This is not the time to come up with programmes, but this is a time for action. Just as the nation came together during the drought and the cholera and malaria outbreaks, we must come together against the brutal and senseless killing of women. Our leaders should not only condone the GBV by word of mouth, but they must also take action,” Namises said.

Gender Research and Advocacy Project coordinator at the Legal Assistance Centre Dianne Hubbard said the fight against GBV is a fight for everybody.

“We can’t just look to our leaders alone. What are we doing to condemn this? Each and every one of us should be part of this fight against gender-based violence,” Hubbard said. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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