GBV Increases HIV/AIDS risk for Women in Namibia


Violence against women and girls is a global tragedy. Like in many countries around the globe, there is a strong relationship between gender-based violence (GBV) and the spread of HIV/AIDS, and an even stronger correlation exists between poverty and domestic violence, in Namibia.

Poverty forces women and children to stay in violent relationships where their HIV-positive partners often subject them to rape and HIV infection.

It is alleged that HIV-positive abusive partners intentionally infect their girlfriends or spouses. In marriage, women are not supposed to deny their husbands conjugal rights. Asking one’s husband to use a condom is taboo.

Due to these practices, married women whose husbands have multiple partners are at high risk of contracting HIV. Gender-based violence has been identified as a significant driver of HIV/AIDS infections in women in the Southern African region.

In Namibia, 40 percent of females have experienced physical violence compared to 28 percent of their male counterparts, according to a 2009 study on Knowledge, Attitudes and Practices (KAP) conducted by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare.

One can deduce that Namibia, as a rich country in natural resources, will soon be poor in human resources. In Namibia, human lives are being wasted through either domestic violence or HIV/AIDS.

According to a UNAIDS report on AIDS, Namibia has one of the highest prevalence rates in the world. The sad reality is the majority of the people living with HIV/AIDS in Namibia are women.

Gender-based violence is a grave concern in Namibia. In 2007, there were 12 563 GBV cases reported to the police, a slight decrease was registered the following year at 11 611, but the figures picked up in 2009 to 11 882, and 11 854 in 2010.  

The 2011 National Crime Statistics showed that the Namibian Police recorded 1 085 reported cases of rape and 277 attempted rape in the same year.

According to the latest joint publication of the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) and the Law Reform and Development Commission, 86 percent of the victims were female, compared to only 14 percent male.

In the survey sample, boyfriends perpetuate most of the domestic violence against their girlfriends, either during the course of the relationship or after its termination.

The next most prevalent category was that of violence committed by husbands against their wives, followed by violence committed by brothers against their sisters.

During the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence at Walvis Bay on November 24, the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare Rosalia Nghidinwa called on Namibians to curtail gender-based violence and said ensuring gender equity will go a long way to help end the AIDS epidemic.

She said women would be significantly safer from violence if domestic violence could be eliminated from our society.

Nghidinwa pointed out that traditional social norms such as child marriage and gender inequality in Namibia are thought to create an enabling environment for various forms of GBV, including intimate partner violence and domestic violence.

Besides, there seems to be a high tolerance embedded in the society when it comes to men beating their wives or partners.

What goes on behind closed doors is regarded as a family matter, and not the business of neighbours, friends, or the authorities, she said.

She said the government has put in place various legislative measures, including the Combating of Domestic Violence Act of 2003 to address GBV in the country. However, lack of effective implementation of laws and policies constrain women and girls from having total protection of their basic human rights.

This year’s 16 days of activism go under the theme “From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women”.

At international level, the campaign will focus on three areas ‑ violence perpetrated by State actors, domestic violence and role of small arms; and sexual violence during and after violence while at the local level, the campaign will look at teenage pregnancy, baby dumping and passion killing.

I, therefore, urge that we use the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence to evangelise the gospel of peace. From peace in the home to peace in the world, and condemn gender violence in all its guises whether physical, sexual, emotional, verbal and economic. I thank you.

November 2013
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