WHILE Namibia has put in place a strong legal framework to address the various forms of gender-based violence and sexual exploitation, ineffective implementation prevents Namibian women from enjoying their rights to life, security of person and bodily integrity, a United Nations report on ‘Extreme Poverty and Human Rights' in Namibia has found.
The report by Special Rapporteur Magdalena Sepúlveda Carmona states that studies indicate that many female victims of violence experience continuing problems when turning to the police, including unsympathetic police attitudes, slow response times, failure to follow-up on complaints, and inadequate investigations.
“The socio-economic inequality of women and girls and some negative cultural practices are at the root of widespread gender-based violence in Namibia, which is a grave and persisting human rights concern. Poverty is both a contributing factor to, and a result of gender-based violence,” Sepúlveda Carmona said in the report which will be presented at the 23rd Session of the Human Rights Council today.
She outlined that women's lower economic status and lack of economic autonomy create relationships of dependence and increase their vulnerability to abusive relationships, poverty, social exclusion and disempowerment.
There are currently 15 Women and Child Protection Units in the country, intended as specialised police units, which provide sensitive responses to gender-based violence.
“However, these units suffer from training shortcomings, frequent transfer of personnel, lack of adequate transport, lack of support and supervision for staff, staff shortages and lack of adequate facilities and equipment,” Sepúlveda Carmona pointed out.
She said there are only a few temporary shelters and safety houses in the country and that “risk assessments are not undertaken at an early stage”.
The implementation of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act of 2003 according to the Special Rapporteur has also encountered administrative difficulties.
“Significant problems have been identified with the processes of application for and serving of Protection Orders as well as compliance with their provisions,” she stated.
In addition, she states that violence against children remains widespread, including sexual violence with four out of 10 rape cases involving the rape of a child and over 25% of children under 12 having been forced to have sexual intercourse.
“The response of the legal and child protection systems, in particular in cases of sexual violence against children, remains inadequate. Improvements are necessary in a variety of areas, from the availability and functioning of the Women and Child Protection Units, to the number of social workers, public awareness raising and police training,” she states.
The report also found that progress in the reduction of inequality has not been fast enough since independence and unacceptable levels of inequality persist along the lines of gender, race, region, ethnicity and class.
“While a number of poverty reduction goals have been reached (such as an increase in primary and secondary school enrolment), disappointing outcomes in some key policies are disproportionately impacting the enjoyment of rights by the poorest segments of the population.”