Taking collective responsibility

21 May 2019 | Columns

It is indeed encouraging to see Namibians in general expressing their support and speaking out in defence of sexual assault survivors. Stigma can compound the pain of sexual assault victims and it is extremely difficult for many of them to come forward and share their ordeals. In most cases, victims are shamed and to some extent are blamed by society. However, this is fast becoming a thing of the past, thanks to Namibia's #MeToo movement, which was recently launched to provide a host of specialist support services to survivors, including legal and psychological support. This is a positive step in the right direction. By 8 May, as a result of the formation of the alliance, seven cases of rape were being investigated by the police, stemming from the more than 200 stories of sexual assault shared on social media. It must be said that a day hardly goes without a woman or child becoming a victim of rape in Namibia. Sexual assaults on our women and children are real and pervasive in our society. It is sad that women are often rendered voiceless when it comes to their experiences of sexual crimes, given the horrifying culture of fear and intimidation still prevailing in our communities. Violence against women is a dark stain on our reputation as a nation. We need to agree that the fight against abuse cannot be left to law-enforcement officials only. Men, in particular, must be actively involved and be part of the solution to help the country’s crime-fighters tackle sexual offences against women and children. The #MeToo movement is just one of many initiatives that are needed to fight this terrible scourge. Collective responsibility is required in order for sexual abuse to be eradicated from society; hence the need to roll out campaigns that will be effective in not only teaching men and boys how to respect women, but also foster a culture in our society that is clear in its condemnation of sexual crimes.