Justice minister Yvonne Dausab says the nation is at a point of desperation as it tries to find ways to respond to the carnage of sexual violence.
She said the rate at which sexual offences are being committed has become an alarming problem. She further indicated there is something wrong with the kind of society Namibia is becoming, as the victims of sexual violence are increasingly becoming younger and more vulnerable.
According to statistics, about 1 566 children were sexually violated between 2019 and 2021 while 690 cases of sexual violence were reported between January 2021 to August 2021.
Dausab made the remarks on Monday during a public and stakeholder consultation on the discussion of the establishment of a sex offenders’ register in Namibia.
“We are currently at the point of desperation, as we ask ourselves, what more can we do so that someone hears the cry of young boys and girls suffering from sexual violence?”
Dausab indicated that the sex offenders’ register is one way that the government is using to mitigate the carnage of sexual violence. She explicitly noted the register is not targeting men but all genders as sexual violence perpetrators.
According to the minister, law alone is not enough to protect the most vulnerable people in society.
She indicated that in implementing the sex offenders’ register; certain constitutional rights such as equality, right to dignity and right to privacy may be infringed upon.
“We understand that there may be constitutional issues that will arise from this. That is why we are having this consultative session,” she said.
Sam Niingungo from the Law Reform and Development Commission explained the sex offenders’ register would contain the names of persons convicted of sexual offences.
It will also have names of persons convicted in other jurisdictions and individuals who are charged but are unfit to stand trial.
“The register is aimed at protecting vulnerable persons and to deter would-be offenders. It is also to assist the police with their investigations and to alert the public so that perpetrators do not come into contact with children and vulnerable persons,” said Niingungo.
Making their contributions, Rosa Namises, director at Women Solidarity Namibia and Natasha Bassingthwaighte from the Society of Advocates of Namibia, agreed that there should be provisions in place to rehabilitate the offenders placed on the register, so that one day they may be removed from it.
“Members of the public, the police and employers should have access to the register. We should also create awareness and educate the public on the importance of the register,” said Namises.
Deputy minister of gender equality Bernadette Jagger added the list should contain all statutory sexual offences.
She indicated that the rights of persons placed on the list should also be placed into consideration, especially if they have been rehabilitated.
According to her, the period the sex offenders remain placed on the register should depend on the gravity of the crime they have committed. Yolande Engelbrecht from the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) said statistics indicate that the majority of sexual offences are committed by family members of the victim. Thus, an element of a domestic setting should be included. She proposed that a sex offender should be placed on the register after their prison term and not from the date of conviction.
Ndeyapo Nafuka from the Namibia Correctional Services questioned if enough research was conducted on the matter at hand.
“We need to guard against giving a false sense of security to the society. Currently, there is a debate questioning if sexual offenders’ registers can really deter crime. We need to look at the potential consequences,” said Nafuka.