Capitalism, the Christian religion and the patriarchal structure of Namibian society have allowed the scourge of rape culture to continue unabated.
At the highest echelons of party politics, secretary general of Swapo Party Sofia Shaningwa reportedly responded to a question from a journalist, regarding the appointment of an alleged (his case is still under appeal in the supreme court) rape perpetrator Vincent Likoro to the party “think tank” as having ‘nothing to do with her’ because she doesn’t involve herself in bedroom stories.
Rape culture is so embedded in Namibian society that even women, who are some of the most vulnerable members of society, have come to accept it as something that is somewhat normal if Sofia Shaningwa’s utterances are anything to go by.
Some women have even defended the act when those implicated are their husbands, brothers, fathers or sons. In an article, titled ‘Think Tank and Rape Apologists’ by gender activist Ndilokelwa Nthengwa, she quotes statistics from the ‘Prioritised National Plan of Action on Gender-Based Violence 2019-2023’, which reveals that 93% of perpetrators of sexual violence and domestic violence are men and 86% of victims/survivors are women.
These disproportionate statistics painfully shows the obvious – even to the most unassuming mind – that women are victims of sexual and gender-based violence at the hands of men.
These are not ‘bedroom stories’’; sexual and gender-based violence is a societal concern that should be confronted head-on.
How the system failed a five-year-old
On 5 August 2019, a daily newspaper reported how ex-convict 50-year-old Jeremiah Van Wyk, who had, at the time, recently been released from prison after having served a 15-year sentence for rape and murder, abducted, kidnapped and raped a five-year-old child after he had convinced a teacher to release her into his care at a daycare centre in the Windhoek suburb of Khomasdal.
Van Wyk admitted to the court that he was indeed guilty of the actions for which he was charged when he appeared a week after his arrest.
He attributed his actions to the fact that he was under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time.
However, the magistrate in the case was not satisfied with his plea and remanded him in custody for “further police investigations”.
His case is still ongoing, despite the fact that he admitted guilt on the charges because the Magistrate felt that due process should be followed and Van Wyk should be afforded legal representation due to the seriousness of the charges he is facing.
The issue regarding a sex offender register has been brought up by activists as the Ministry of Justice continues to finalise the new combating of rape act that seeks to replace the Combating of Rape Act (No.8 of 2000). However, the question remains, how could a teacher at the daycare centre allow a stranger to pick up a five-year-old when the only people who were mandated to do so were the child’s parents and an elder sister, according to the indemnity form signed by the parents?
Not to point fingers or apportion blame, but society in general and in this particular case, the teacher at hand, are just as complicit in the rape of the five-year-old as Van Wyk is.
Society was not supposed to allow for Van Wyk to be in the same vicinity as children and the teacher was supposed to be extra cautious and vigilant to not have allowed the child to be abducted by Jeremiah in the first place. How the justice system continues to fail our women The Namib Times of Friday 8 October 2021 reported that 59-year-old Sam Halupe appeared in the Swakopmund Magistrate’s Court on a charge of rape. Sam Halupe is the owner of multiple businesses in the coastal town, which include Makiti Bar, Strong Bar and Roots Bar.
The twenty-six-year-old complainant says Halupe drove her to a secluded area along the Swakopmund-Hentiesbay road and forced himself on her. She says he raped her, and she opened a case with the police under case number CR/02/10/2021.
He was subsequently arrested on Monday the 4 October and appeared in court on Tuesday, 5 of October, after which he was granted bail in the amount of N$3 000.
Capitalism and sexual assault
Sharon Smith posits in an article, titled ‘Capitalism and sexual assault: Toward a more comprehensive understanding’ that, “Sexual assault is not inflicted by the system as a whole, but by individual people. Nevertheless, women’s oppression does not originate with individual people; it stems from institutional inequality that is organized from above, in the traditional family structure, the legal system and other social structures that define women as second-class citizens. It can, therefore, be ended at the individual or personal level only if we do away with the capitalist system”.
Smith continues to argue that: “Marxists understand that police and other law enforcement agencies function as an armed wing of the capitalist state, enforcing laws that maintain class and social inequality”. This is exactly what the complainant in the Halupe case alleges when recounting her treatment by the police when she went to report the case and the subsequent days thereafter.
According to the complainant, because she was known to the accused and they had been acquaintances, the police placed doubts on her allegations of rape.
She further said she has been approached by the family of the accused with monetary compensation if she withdraws the case because, if she does pursue the case she may lose and walk away with nothing, they advised her to take the money.
Knowing the Namibian justice system, many more people would advise her to take the money because it doesn’t seem to protect the victim but rather the perpetrator.
Christianity has always been a problematic religion – not only in regard to documented cases of sexual abuse in the church but also about the predominant message in the Christian church that places women in a subservient position to men in society. This includes the family structure and intimate relationships such as marriage. The church, over the centuries, has been an enabler of sexual abuse against women and children.
Patriarchy, according to feminist literature, is a term used to describe the uneven power relation between men and women in society. It is described as a system of social structures and practices in which men dominate, oppress and exploit women.
The patriarchal structure of society allows for the secretary general of the Swapo Party, Sofia Shaningwa, to defend the appointment of a convicted rapist to the Party Think Tank as a situation that doesn’t require her attention because it is a ‘bedroom story’. Patriarchy allows for young five-year-olds to be picked by total strangers at a daycare centre because the teacher views men, even men like Jeremiah Van Wyk, as authorities to be believed when they show up unannounced at a daycare centre.
Patriarchy allows for a Swakopmund businessman to be released on bail a day after his arrest because he had known his victim and the police doubt her story because she was an acquaintance.
As a society, we have to do more to protect the Namibian girl child; we have to do more to ensure that our women are safe.
As a society, we have to break down the systems of oppression that make women second-class citizens in a world where they should not only be regarded but should be treated as equals.
If these systems are not systematically dismantled, the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence against women and children will continue unabated – and when the situation reaches crisis proportion (which it already has), we would only have ourselves to blame.