Namibia is being tarnished … as GBV continues unabated
By Magreth Nunuhe
WINDHOEK – Namibians are destroying their good name through the high incidence of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country, says President Hifikepunye Pohamba.
“I say shame on us. What kind of society am I living in as president of this country?” asked Pohamba yesterday at the opening of the second National Conference on Gender-Based Violence in Windhoek. The audience applauded his remarks.
“When we grow up, we turn against them (women). This is inhuman. How can you turn against your own mother?”
The theme of the conference is ‘Unifying Actions to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence in Namibia.’
Attendees were later moved to tears when Bernadette Eise, a survivor of GBV who is undergoing speech therapy after she was severely assaulted by a former partner, told her story.
Pohamba said the time has come for society to refer to women as “our mothers, because they have carried us for nine months and still take care of us after birth”.
Pohamba said fathers were even assaulting and raping their daughters – actions he equated to “some kind of animal” bahaviour.
He said it was of great concern that innocent lives continue to be lost through GBV, which has resulted in Namibia earning a shameful reputation globally.
Pohamba said the constitution guarantees the right to life. Namibia is also signatory to several regional and international legal instruments such as the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development; UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women of 1992; the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child of 2004 and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
He said Namibians need to relook certain societal beliefs, practices and forms of behaviour that may contribute to the perpetration and increase in GBV to be able to conceptualise and initiate more effective strategies to achieve the desired goals.
“We should spare no effort to ensure that we have a society where women and children are fully protected, where our men respect themselves and others, especially our women and children,” he said.
Prime Minister Dr Hage Geingob said many people were baffled by such acts of violence, especially those committed by men and women of mature age, who take away the precious lives of loved ones through their heinous ways.
He said GBV was continuing despite the first conference held in 2007, where action-oriented recommendations were formulated, which is why the second conference was being held to brainstorm on finding new ways of addressing the evil.
“Most of the lives lost are of our youth who have a promising future ahead of them and who have the potential to take this country to greater heights,” he said.
Geingob urged parents to analyse the manner in which they bring up their children, that lawmakers come up with deterrents and traditional leaders examine “if we have lost our traditions in respecting and honouring women”.
The Deputy Chairperson of the Council of Traditional Leaders, Chief Immanuel /Gaseb, questioned why the culture of brutality continues even though Namibians are independent and free.
“Are we still the Christian nation that understands and abides by the Ten Commandments of God, especially the sixth commandment that states thou shall not kill? Are we still brave Namibians who fought oppression; the brutality that we suffered in the hands of the minority South African regime?” he asked.
/Gaseb said that in African tradition giving a dowry to the parents of the bride does not mean the man has bought his wife, but is only a gesture of appreciation and should the parents detect that their daughter is being abused, they should take back their daughter from such a marriage.
/Gaseb said both men and women are accomplices in GBV and that society has perhaps forgotten its moral ethics due to globalisation.
“We can stop gender-based violence if we put our house in order. Children must be told to respect elders and elders must behave as adults,” he said.
The Second National Conference on Gender-Based Violence takes forward the work started through the First National Conference on GBV to advise government and stakeholders on the formulations and implementation of GBV programmes and laws, as well as the strategies set out in the GBV Plan of Action.