‘Violence against women on the increase in Namibia’

Detective inspector Rosalia Shapilwe who is in charge a section that specifically deals with violence against women and child labour said this week that more women had been victims of physical abuse from their partners in the past one year despite her department’s efforts to raise awareness about the the crime.

“We are creating more awareness through community based groups. We target schools and the whole nation through the radio, television and workshops for people we identify that can help spread the word,” she said.

A new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on domestic violence based on interviews with more than 24 000 women from rural and urban areas in 10 countries, including Namibia, shows that intimate partner violence is the most common form of violence in women’s lives – much more so than assault or rape by strangers or acquaintances.”

“This Women’s Health and Domestic Violence Against Women study shows that women are more at risk from violence at home than in the street and this has serious repercussions for women’s health,” said Dr Lee Jong Wook, Director General of WHO, at the release of the study in Geneva, Switzerland.

“The study also shows how important it is to shine a spotlight on domestic violence globally and treat it as a major public health issue.”

Another report released last month by global human rights watchdog, Amnesty International, noted that while there had been fewer instances of Government hate speech in Namibia, violence against women and children remained pervasive.

The report stated that it was evident from Police bulletins that there was a high level of violence against women and children, although no official figures had been released by the end of last year.

Shapilwe agreed with the report but she, too, could not give the exact figures saying the police force was still compiling them and that they would come up with the percentage increase soon.

She said in a bid to combat the crime, the police force had embarked on a multisectoral approach in which they were working with non-governmental organisations such as Legal Assistance, White Ribbon Campaign, Namibian men for Change, Women Solidarity and a few others to help fight the scourge.

“We are also working with line ministries like the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Gender Equality and Ministry of labour to try and raise awareness of the crime and the penalties involved,” she said.

She said in recognising the prevalence of the crime, the government had enacted the Domestic Act of 2003 and the Rape Act in 2004 to deal with offenders found guilty of violence against women. She said the penalty given to an offender varied depending on the circumstances under which the crime was committed.

The WHO study makes recommendations and calls for action by policy makers and the public health sector to address the human and health costs, including by integrating violence prevention programming into a range of social programmes.

June 2006
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