The commemoration of International Women’s Day on 8 March, has come and gone. However, there are issues that we still need to ponder on. One such vital issue is concerning the respect of our women and making sure they live in a society where they are equal citizens and enjoy all rights, on an equal basis.
There are still some customary beliefs that regard men as superior to women and mistreat women because of it. This is unacceptable because women should always feel safe and be free from humiliation and disrespect. Men should have the humility and mentality of knowing that women are not there for them to do with as they please. Some men resort to violence against women, and this violent behaviour that is intended to humiliate and hurt women in our society must never be tolerated, it must not only be condemned but should be severely punished. At times, the victims of this unbecoming behaviour are forced to silence by their tormentors. It is, indeed, so disturbing to frequently read in the newspapers about terrible violent acts committed against women in our country.
There were reports of men using pangas, hammers, knives, sticks and bottles as weapons against their female counterparts. Gender-based violence causes severe depression in victims. Sometimes even if men do not use physical violence, they uncontrollably lambast women for whatever they wish to do as free human beings. This surely leads to depression and feelings of humiliation and rejection by their male partners. The fact is that the injustices, fights, unnecessary restrictions, daily criticism, prejudices to which women are at times subjected by their so-called lovers lead to depression. Women then find it hard to lead normal lives. However, what we need to accept and recognise is that women contributed a lot to the liberation struggle of our country and the economic development of their motherland. Our society at times wrongly underestimates the prominent role women played during the liberation struggle. For example, my spouse and other comrades of hers were trained in artillery and other big guns. She, and others, participated in the successful attack on the South African military bases in today’s Zambezi region and nobody talks about that. When we also talk about prisoners who were taken to South African prisons during colonial times, we seem to mention only men, we omit to mention that women were also taken to these prisons in South Africa. Some women like Dorothea and Justina were also arrested and taken to South Africa where they were held in prison together with men. Some of these women were arrested for having provided food and hiding places for Swapo combatants and nothing is mentioned about them, Dorothea was the sister of the fighter Immanuel Shifidi who was imprisoned on Robben Island. Another women, Justina Amaalwa who was pregnant at that time, was also imprisoned in South Africa because of her commitment to the liberation struggle, she is also not mentioned.
There were also many others who committed themselves to the liberation struggle like Dr Libertine Amathila, Putuse Appolus, and many others. Another critical issue that needs to be dealt with seriously is what is happening in some customary practices to our girl children. Some of these customary practices force young girls into marriages with older men. Without going into detail, our laws are very clear on the appropriate age to get married. The Namibian constitution, among others, state that…” men and women…OF FULL AGE…shall be entitled to equal rights”, and when it concerns marriage, it also provides that “marriage shall be entered in to ONLY WITH FREE AND FULL CONSENT of intending spouses”. After all, the constitution of Namibia is the supreme law and its provisions should be binding on all citizens. Therefore, customary practices which force young girls, as young as one or two years old, into marriage is indeed a violation of the constitutional rights of the girl child.
These young girls are sometimes forced into sexual acts with their so-called husbands at the tender age of fourteen years. This violates the laws of the country. These issues, I believed, should be one of the topics addressed during the women’s day commemorations because these customary practices are in violation of the constitution and the laws of the country. It is a fact that during the colonial era and immediately after independence, the laws did not seriously address these terrible issues, but now our democratic government have laws in place which can be used to correct these evils. This serious customary practice is with us and the relevant legal structures may find a way to address these issues. We cannot allow customary practices like these to freely violate our constitution and laws. In conclusion, as much as fighting against and preventing gender-based violence is a serious matter for our Namibian government, the violence against women and rape cases are increasingly reported in the media. This unending violence against women will have devastating effects on Namibia. Sadly it seems the men who are the culprits seen to be unaware that their unbecoming behaviour will have dire consequences on the development and progress of the country.