Experts believe the country is reckoning with a rape problem. “We have had a rape crisis all this time. There is nothing new. It is an ongoing crisis,” said relationship consultant Ngamane Karuaihe-Upi.
Recent cases of rape have led to public outrage in the country, with many condemning the heinous acts on social media and other platforms by demanding action against perpetrators.
According to Karuaihe-Upi, blaming women for being raped does not help. He called out men, saying they were responsible for such acts. “People who need to change so that rape can stop are men. Society needs to stop looking at men having entitlement to women, entitled to sex and having a superior place in life or above women,” he said.
He added that men need to be subjected to harsh criminal and civil penalties to get the message across. “There are a lot of men who stand by while others are raping, these rapists have friends and family. Where are all these people to stand up against rape?” questioned Karuaihe-Upi.
This past weekend, the country was rocked by several rape incidents, including a case where a 19-year-old was allegedly sexually violated by her uncle at Swakopmund. A woman was also gang-raped by unknown men at a house in Otjomuise after passing out allegedly after drinking alcohol. In another incident, two truck drivers are accused of raping a woman in the northern part of the country.
This year alone police have recorded 329 rape cases. In most instances, there are about three rape cases reported each weekend by the police and the majority of the victims are minor girls.
The technical advisor in the Office of the First Lady of Namibia, Veronica Theron, noted that the pervasiveness of the rape culture in the country suggests women and children are devalued.
Karuaihe-Upi blamed the safety and security and education ministries for doing a poor job in standing up and being visible and audible on the issue of rape. He said the churches are also quiet on the matter.
Theron said the rape culture is simply an environment where rape is very common and normalised. She said people use any kind of blame and excuse to minimise these dehumanising and violent acts.
“There are also underlying societal perspectives and gender norms that women’s bodies are mere objects for sexual pleasure and reproduction and that rape is pleasurable for women as it is a sign of romance and confirming women’s sexual attractiveness by the perpetrator,” said Theron.
She added that rape is perpetrated out of pure misogyny, which is a deep-seated disrespect for women and children and everything they represent in the perpetrator’s mind, therefore it is easy to victim-blame by saying ‘she asked for it’.
The Office of the First Lady is currently dealing with 11 active rape cases of which four are on trial. “These are cases that, if successful, can help change the way the whole system deals with rape and other forms of gender-based violence,” she added.
Theron further said they recently educated the nation about the importance to fully understand the Combatting of Rape Act at their #BeFreeBalling event, but both the girl and boy child cannot begin to seek help if they do not understand what constitutes rape. She said if one does not know what rape is or how it may look then we have problem at basic level. She said the focus should not be on the girl child alone, because boys are victims of sexual abuse too but it is underreported.
“The lesson should start with having age-appropriate conversations with children from a young age about good and bad touch, good and bad secret, what constitutes consent and sexually inappropriate behaviour and when and where to report.”
Chairperson of #MeTooNamibia Movement Saima Akawa said: “If many are shocked by the scary numbers of rape cases on the rise, it just shows a fake outcry because the numbers have been high. The time is now to be angry, to stand up as one, to have one voice and end the rape culture in our country.”
Namibian Police spokesperson Deputy Commissioner Kauna Shikwambi said rape is an act of domestic violence, which is vey serious and traumatic, especially for children. “It is a problem that touches many more people in Namibia. Most of these acts are committed by men and these men must really start doing the right thing to address their sexual needs. If you look at these offences, most are committed by suspects not far related from the victims and happen in homes and riverbeds. Because suspects are not far related from the victims, our arrest figures are high because in most cases suspects are arrested,” she said.
Responding to what can be done to help the girl child against these attacks, Shikwambi responded that unfortunately there is no 100% proven preventative measure because despite all efforts by the police and other stakeholders these types of cases continue to occur unabated.
Crisis… Namibia is battling a rape problem. Picture for illustration purposes only.
Photo: Emmency Nuukala