Community education key to addressing GBV

> Lahja Nashuuta

Just when some of us thought that the issue of gender based violence will soon be a thing of the past in Namibia following the National Day of Prayer as well as the National Conference on Gender Based Violence hosted by the Office of Prime Minister and other efforts done by government in this regard, passion killings continue unabated.

There seems to be no end in sight to this evil scourge that has gripped our peaceful nation as many lives, mostly of women are cut short in the most barbaric manner by their so-called loved ones.
Namibians are still reeling from shock following the double murder of the Kuaseua sisters on October 9, 2015 in the nation’s capital Windhoek. This heinous crime is said to have been committed by a school teacher, who in his cowardice tried to commit suicide by drinking acid. As if this was not enough, a young man was allegedly killed by his girlfriend in Windhoek’s Okulyangava suburb and the media reported on Tuesday about another killing of a wife by husband who in turn committed suicide in Opuwo.
These abhorrent crimes have resuscitated calls to reinstate capital punishment in Namibia. During the past few days, Namibians from all walks of life took to public platforms mostly on social media to vent their anger against GBV, mostly the killing of women. Everyone is offering his/her opinion about the possible causes of these incidents.
Gender Equality and Child Welfare Minister Doreen Sioka has described culprits of GBV as a disgrace and urged the courts not to grant bail to such people. While visiting the family of Celia and Jacqueline Kuaseua on Monday, October 11, Sioka also called on the media to expose and shame those who inflict harm on their loved ones.
We have heard about the same rhetoric before. Which bags for an answer to questions such as why incidents of gender-based violence continue to increase in Namibia? Does that mean all along we have been treating the wrong symptoms? One can say the government has almost done what it could to address the scourge of GBV.
There are laws in place to help mitigate the acts of gender violence. Last year, the Government unveiled medium and long term measures, including no bail and heavier jail terms for offenders. Cabinet has also passed resolutions to address this problem. Among those are that the Ministry of Justice must introduce a witness protection programme to protect those who testify in cases involving gender-based violence.
Apart from that Cabinet has also decided that the Criminal Procedure Act of 1977 should be amended, in order to tighten the requirements for bail in cases of gender-based violence.
It was further decided that the Correctional Service Act of 2012 should be amended, in order to deny parole to persons who are accused and convicted of gender-based violence.
All the above measures indicate that Namibia has strong laws in place to combat GBV. But why do we still have these killings?
Maybe the answer lies with the community. There have been efforts to involve the community in addressing gender based violence, but I am not too sure if enough was done in this regard. There is need to avail more resources to educate communities about the negative impact of GBV, and change attitudes toward the matter.
A number of studies have shown that involving entire communities in recognizing, addressing and working to prevent GBV is one of the surest ways of eliminating it. To be optimally effective, societies must be willing to examine root causes and exacerbating factors of GBV.
Another missing link is a strong partnership between government and non-governmental organisations. Together, these parties have a chance not only to assist victims of the GBV, but also help change attitudes toward this problem. A strong partnership between government and the civil society will also help build a knowledge base about the problem of GBV in the country. What I see happening at the moment is that all the mitigation measures including no bail and heavier jail terms for offenders are based on emotions.
Our policymakers were making decisions in reaction to the heinous murders of women by their male counterparts, but not on the basis of evidence on the ground. With information at hand, policymakers will be able to make sound decisions about how and where to allocate resources in preventing and responding to the scourge of GBV.
Until then….

October 2015
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