GBV alarms amid women’s progress

Violence deemed the ‘shadow pandemic’
According to police statistics, between September 2019 and September 2020, over 5 000 cases of gender-based violence, 800 cases of rape and 74 femicides were reported countrywide.
STAFF REPORTER
Despite widespread recognition of efforts to promote gender equality in all sectors of Namibian society, the steep rate of violence against women and children continues to alarm most Namibians.

A review of women-related perceptions from the 2021/2022 Afrobarometer survey in Namibia, titled ‘Amid progress on women’s rights, Namibians see gender-based violence as priority issue to address’, concluded that most Namibians are optimistic about work towards gender equality in the country, however, violence against women and children continues to be a major concern. “Namibians say violence against women is a common problem and constitutes the most important women’s rights issue that government and society should address.”

Statistics released by the police in 2020 showed that between September 2019 and September 2020, over 5 000 cases of gender-based violence (GBV), 800 cases of rape and 74 femicides were reported countrywide.

The Afrobarometer dispatch, co-authored by Christiaan Keulder and Kelechi Amakoh, further noted that “despite government’s efforts, gender equality remains a goal rather than a reality, and some analysts point to reports of increased GBV during the Covid-19 pandemic as evidence of a ‘shadow pandemic’”.

Most Namibians (61%) say government is doing a fairly or very good job to promote equal rights and opportunities for women, but just over 40% felt government should do more to promote rights and opportunities for women.

Significant deterrent

The findings show women are more likely than men to cite GBV as a top priority (56% vs. 47%), and that almost six out of 10 Namibians (58%) believe violence against women is a very to somewhat frequent occurrence in their communities.

An equal number of Namibians (58%) say men are never justified to physically abuse their wives, but four in 10 Namibians still believe men are ‘sometimes’ or ‘always’ justified to physically discipline female partners.

Women are somewhat less likely than men to rule out physical discipline as never justified - 56% vs. 60%.

The view that men are never justified in physically disciplining their wives gathers strength with education levels, ranging from 48% of those with no formal schooling to 63% of those with post-secondary qualifications.

Most Namibians (82%) have faith that the police are likely to take reports of GBV seriously, and a large number (73%) believe domestic violence should be treated as a criminal matter.

However, the survey highlighted that only one-third of Namibians say it is unlikely a woman will be criticised, harassed or shamed for reporting a case of rape, domestic violence or other forms of GBV. This while more than four in 10 Namibians say it is somewhat or very likely. “These perceptions – whether accurate or not – may serve as a significant deterrent to reporting GBV,” the authors of the Afrobarometer dispatch warn.

Equality

“While GBV is on the public’s front burner in terms of issues affecting women, the long struggle for gender equality continues on many other fronts,” the dispatch stated. Overall, a majority of Namibians approve of government’s performance in promoting equal rights and opportunities for women, although many say greater efforts are needed.

A strong majority (84%) of Namibians support women’s rights in employment, land ownership and political leadership. Still, some worry that female candidates might suffer criticism, harassment or family problems, the findings indicate.