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Opinion - Think tanks and rape apologists

2021-10-08  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Think tanks and rape apologists
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Everyone seems to be on board to end sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV), especially when we consider direct but basic interpretations of this social scourge with sentiments that collectively straddle the same lines as, ‘Yes, we must protect our women. Protect the girl-child. Say no to SGBV. Protect our children. Zero tolerance to SGBV. One Namibia, One Nation.’ It comes up especially when we consider and remember all the many colourful but tongue-in-cheek speeches, insufficient commitments, anti-SGBV parades, policies and legislation to curb this social pandemic that bedevils our country. 

And it seems as if though, because of this collective awareness, it should be cogently understood that SGBV remains an insidious, pervasive and vicious social phenomenon which permeates every nook and cranny of our society, whether or not you are a staunch anti-SGBV advocate, an activist, a victim and/or survivor, or a nonchalant citizen whose life is occupied by the most mundane, simplest activities. This phenomenon exists, and people understand that it’s there. 

Be that as it may, understanding that something exists alongside its socio-economic ramifications does not necessarily mean that we are compelled to institutionally and morally hold ourselves and our surrounding community accountable for actions which expose their harmful rhetoric and subsequent behaviour in perpetrating crimes of rape and SGBV. 

In fact, more often than not, depending on who the accused perpetrator is, we resort to bystander culture, abdicate moral responsibility by a form of silence, or trivialise the severity and gravity of a particular crime and become rape apologists. 

So much so that we call them ‘bedroom issues’, or inadvertently dismiss the topic to ‘focus on the status of our economy’ and redirect it to a different platform as if the two are so divorced from each other that they warrant separate confrontational grounds. 

According to the ‘Prioritised National Plan of Action on Gender-Based Violence 2019-2023’, 86% of sexual and domestic violence survivors are women, and 93% of perpetrators are men. 

In fact, the plan focuses on action areas where radical implementation is required to potentially and fundamentally shift and transform the current trajectory of SGBV and related crimes in our country. Surprisingly enough, the Harambee Prosperity Plan 2 (HPP2), highlights, in Pillar 3 which deals with Social Progression, Goal 5 that speaks to ‘Arresting Gender-Based Violence & Violence Against Children’ through a channel of activities. Activities which, if you look closely enough, resemble and to a broad yet suspicious extent replicate the same activities as those listed in the ‘Prioritised National Plan of Action on Gender-Based Violence 2019-2023’.

In a recent article published by The Namibian, the secretary general of the Swapo party, Sophia Shaningwa, was recorded saying, “It is really below the belt that you want me to discuss bedroom stories...Never should you come back to me asking about bedroom stories. I don’t discuss those types of things,” in response to questions asked on why the party would appoint a convicted rapist, Vincent Likoro, to ‘serve on a top ruling party advisory and research body’. 

Shaningwa’s response rests at the backdrop of the damning statistics of rape and SGBV which woefully rock our country, exposing that the Swapo think tank, established in 2007, does not robustly engage nor confront topical but necessary social phenomena such as SGBV, further buttressing and to a reasonable extent confirming that the party politics and its culture is steeped in misogyny (which fuels behaviour that leads to SGBV and rape), deflections, and is undoubtedly drenched with more party members who are convicts and perpetrators of sexual abuse. 

This, therefore, renders Shaningwa’s response as crass, deficient and wholly problematic. 

Nevertheless, if we have a state and party President launch an entire prosperity plan committed to tackling SGBV, what should this say about his level of conviction to combat this social epidemic, and his level of sensitivity towards victims and survivors within the Swapo party and across the country if a convicted rapist has been appointed to a position which again enables a power dynamic to exist between a perpetrator of violence and surrounding relations? 

Clearly, there still remains much to be desired for Swapo, inter alia in internally transforming and confronting rape culture.

But of course, the Swapo party appointing a convicted rapist to their so-called ‘think tank’ should come as no surprise to anybody as the party has continuously and historically outrightly demonstrated that it places cronyism above accountability. 

2021-10-08  Staff Reporter

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