The amendments to the Combating of Domestic Violence Act and Rape Act have been completed and are scheduled to be tabled in parliament this week.
This is according to Gladice Pickering, deputy executive director in the Ministry of Justice. Pickering was speaking at the Covid-19 information centre on Friday on current remedial measures on sexual gender-based violence (SGBV).
Pickering explained the amendments are meant to strengthen the law to allow for harsher prison sentences for perpetrators and to make it easier to secure convictions in court.
The amendments will also help enhance the relationship between witnesses and the prosecution to ensure that witnesses and complainants are informed and kept abreast on the status of the case and outcome thereof.
“The amendments also relate to the burden of proof of how the prosecution will be better enabled to bring evidence before court. Of course, in our criminal justice system, the State has to prove any criminal matter beyond reasonable doubt. This means that there should not be any slight of doubt in the mind of the court,” explained Pickering.
Currently, the law provides that perpetrators convicted on cases of SGBV may face up to 37 and a half years imprisonment, which is equal to two thirds of life imprisonment. The law further requires that a convicted person must serve 25 years before they are eligible for parole.
Although with such hefty custodial sentences imposed, would be offenders are not deterred.
“Statistics have shown that lengthy custodial sentences have not served as a deterrence for would be offenders. Otherwise we would not be seeing what we are seeing now. Despite these heavy sentences, we are still not getting rid of this phenomenon,” said Pickering.
She further added that the legal framework alone cannot combat domestic violence or any form of sexual violence. She explained the criminal justice system deals with the perpetrators after they have committed the crime, thus the system’s focus should shift to prevention rather than retribution and rehabilitation.
Although Namibia has been hailed for its comprehensive legal framework, it needs to be implemented by able and competent institutions.
“Studies have shown that over the years, implementation have proven to be a challenge in Namibia and we must shift our focus from the legal framework to the issues that give rise to this issue of GBV. That is why implementation needs to be revisited,” noted Pickering.
She further added that the government is looking into making amendments to the Combating of Immoral Practices Act.