Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) protesters have welcomed government’s response to their petition in which they pressured the authorities to take adequate action to tackle increasing violence, especially against women and children.
On Tuesday, government through Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila announced a raft of measures approved by Cabinet to intensify the war against sexual violence. These include boosting the gender-based violence protection units countrywide as well as a plan to establish special courts dealing with physical and sexual violence against women.
Youth leader and one of the protesters, Bertha Tobias, said government’s response was satisfactory. “We are no more going to be protesting, we are satisfied with the response, now the real work begins where we hold one another accountable as a society,” she told New Era.
Ombudsman John Walters said government has put in place good legislation, however, the public needs also to pull its weight in the fight against sexual violence.
“In any democracy, we cannot leave everything up to the government. There is a saying that charity starts from home and it takes a village to raise a child, so it is our responsibility as parents to take our responsibilities seriously and guide our children to become responsible citizens,” said Walters.
Government assured the public that it would mobilise more financial and logistical resources in the fight against SGBV. “Existing court infrastructure will be used in this regard, and where space is a constraint within the sector, arrangements will be made to use other available infrastructure,” explained Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
The prime minister further said that the current law provides for sentences for convicted SGBV offenders of up to 37 and a half years, which is equal to two-thirds of a life sentence. A convicted person must serve 25 years before being eligible for parole.
Government will also work to ensure capacity for efficient and effective investigations to support effective holding to account of SGBV perpetrators by the courts. Measures to expedite current murder and sexual offences are ongoing. This, she said, include undertaking joint investigations into why investigations are not finalised in pending cases, compiling a database of all active cases on the court rolls, prioritising cases according to age of victims, age of case, and complexity of investigations, contacting the victim or family of victims in each pending case to update them on the status of the case and providing psycho-social support to victims and witnesses and prepare them for trial. – firstname.lastname@example.org