• August 6th, 2020

Opinion: Gender-based violence causes from Ovawambo perspective

Rev. Dr Johannes Haufiku

A lot has been said about gender-based violence. However, there is no end in sight to this problem. Therefore, I wish to highlight some of the findings from my PhD studies titled “The essential of masculinity transformation and gender-balance power in the gender-based violence context”. Even though, my study focused on a particular group of people, Ovawambo, its findings may help us to address this monster called gender-based violence from a research-based evidence. It is high time that as a nation and a people put our efforts together and say no to gender-based violence of either gender.

It must be understood that human culture is a cornerstone and storehouse of how people should live and act in their social milieu. Like in other ethnic groups in Namibia, in the Ovawambo culture, a man is perceived to be more valuable socially, economically and politically than a woman. The man is the head and ruler of the family, family property owner, breadwinner and family protector. Whereas the woman is expected to play a submissive role to the man.  However, with Namibia’s independence came a new constitution and new gender reform laws were implemented to address gender injustice between men and women, but the paradigm shift has not brought lasting peace to Ovawambo family life. Rather, incidents of gender-based violence continue to be on the rise in intimate sexual relationships in Namibia. One may ask: why do these laws still fail to bring the lasting solution to the current gender conflict and abuse, and why do Ovawambo men continue to abuse their power against women?  

I must admit, that I am deeply troubled by the rate of gender-based violence in our country. Thus in searching for answers to this problem, I carried out a qualitative empirical research of 38 participants: gender-based violence offenders from the Oluno Correctional Facility, retired and unemployed men from the Oniipa and Onguta ELCIN parishes and ELCIN pastors). It is should be pointed out that the findings reveal that there is a link between current gender-based violence and Ovawambo traditional masculine identities, socio-economic and legal changes in Namibia, unemployment and police protection order. This may sound strange, but this problem is complex. Gender-based violence causes are deeper than we may think.

Listen to this; all the men who participated in the study agreed that women are emancipated truly from traditional patriarchal gender arrangements because the gender equality laws favour them, but have also put men in bondage and weakened them. In terms of family authority, participants believe that men have become powerless when it comes to their women who are well protected by the laws and by the police protection order. The inmates of Oluno Rehabilitation Centre, for example claimed that some of them were arrested due to false charges brought by their wives who sought to get rid of them so that while they are in jail, they could take all the family assets which some of the women proceed to share with the new men in their lives. Some of the inmates revealed that they killed their partners not because they were criminals but because they were both physically and psychologically provoked by their spouses and by the unemployment and poverty situation. These revelations are shocking indeed, but should guide us to go deeper and address the causes of gender based violence based on facts as opposed to what we think are causes. These are words from convicts of gender-based violence which should be taken seriously.   

Moreover, some male participants argued that their women respected them only when they were employed, but after their retirement, job loss or diminishment of their money and livestock, their wives started to abuse them. The study also found that many Ovawambo men who married well-educated or rich women are being abused and disrespected by their wives because the equality laws and the protection order from the police mostly favour women over men. Men’s plight in this regard was confirmed by most of the pastors who confirmed that they counsel many unemployed and retired men who are maltreated by their wives. The male participants resent the gender equality and family laws, which they believe undermine their position as head of the family and breadwinner, partly contributing to gender-based violence.

In addition, the male participants alleged that some Namibian police officers simply laugh at any man who reports that he is being abused by his wife. Such bias against men can easily result in tension, frustration, insecurity and low self-esteem in men and cause them to engage in intimate partner violence. Furthermore, women are becoming more emancipated socio-economically and less dependent on men’s wealth, and seemingly, men regard this as a threat. They believe that they need to use their physical power to show their wives that they are still in control.

 It is therefore evident that men feel disempowered by the gender laws, which contradict their traditional values and gender arrangement as well as the Bible. This also indicates that although Namibia has made significant progress in reducing gender inequality and discrimination there are still a number of areas of concern like access to economic assets, transformation of men mind-set, gender equality laws and Police protection order. Hence, an attempts to curb gender-based violence in Ovawambo family life need to include both the transformation of men’s attitudes and values that stem from patriarchal gender arrangements, exile and colonial influence and promoting gender-balanced relations between men and women. Thus, this study proposes the koinonial model as one of the models that could help to create this change.

Rev. Dr Johannes Haufiku
A Clinical Pastoral Caregiver; A Religious, Cultural and Democracy  
Onyaanya ELCIN Parish

Staff Reporter
2019-11-01 08:36:17 | 9 months ago

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