651 men, two women in jail for rape
12 November 2019 | Crime
As Namibia grapples with an epidemic of violence against women and children, the country’s prisons currently house a total of 651 men and two women jailed for rape.
Records provided by the Namibian Correctional Services (NCS) last week show that close to 14% of the 4 414 men behind bars and two of the country’s 147 female inmates were convicted of rape.
In September the Namibian police revealed that close to 1 500 people were arrested between 2017 and March 2019 in connection with more than 2 500 cases of rape. Close to half of the reports of rape involved minors.
The NCS records, in which the names of prisoners were withheld, highlights that when investigations and court proceedings result in successful convictions, many pay a high price for their violent actions.
Of the crop of 653 prisoners, three men have been locked up for the past 27 years after they were given life sentences in 1992.
Another convicted rapist has been in prison for 24 years, serving a fixed 36-year prison term.
In cases where fixed prison terms are applied, prisoners become eligible for parole after serving two-thirds of their sentence, while lifers qualify for consideration of parole after 25 years.
The NCS data shows the majority of perpetrators convicted of rape were given sentences as low as four years and as high as 20 to 30 years.
Those whose crimes were not restricted to rape, or were particularly brutal, are given more severe sentences.
Fifty-eight of the 651 male rape offenders currently in jail are serving sentences of between 30 and 59 years.
Six men are serving sentences of between 60 and 69 years, while four men were sentenced to between 70 and 79 years.
Two men, who were convicted of rape and other crimes, were sentenced to 97 years in prison.
Ten men are serving life sentences for their crimes.
According to the NCS records, four men will only be considered for parole after serving 108 years, after being sentenced to 163 years.
So far this year 53 men have been jailed for rape, including five who were sentenced to life.
Of those jailed for rape in the decade between 2000 and 2010, 138 remain behind bars, while 457 rape convicts sentenced between 2011 and 2018 are still in prison.
One of the two women convicted of rape was sentenced to a 13-year prison term in 2015, followed by another woman sentenced to 20 years in 2016.
Most of the rapists (220) are aged between 31 and 40, followed by 145 offenders aged between 22 and 25, and 130 aged between 41 and 50 years. Ten are between 17 and 19 years old, and 25 are 20 or 21 years old. Five of the offenders are 71 or older.
The majority of the prisoners, 170, are incarcerated at the Windhoek prison, followed by 153 who are serving their time at the Hardap facility near Mariental.
A recently published study, in which 15 Windhoek prisoners consented to be interviewed to explain their motives, concluded there “is not one single explanation of rape”.
The study, conducted by Unam researcher Nangula Kefas, concluded that rape of minors, rape by deception, incest and marital rape are the primary types of rape committed in Namibia.
Many of the prisoners blamed triggers such as alcohol and drugs, but admitted that underlying beliefs and violent family histories also played a role.
Chris Green, the UK founder of the White Ribbon Campaign, a global movement that works with men to end male violence against women and children, says the responses by the prisoners interviewed for the study should be taken with a grain of salt, “as they tend to be self-justifying of their rapist behaviour.”
He stresses that the “fundamental reason, listed in the study but not always acknowledged by perpetrators, is the need to demonstrate power and control.”
The study underlines that cultural practices and traditions, which entrench a submissive, inferior role for women and a dominant one for men, in addition to dysfunctional and abusive childhood experiences, toxic masculinity and patriarchy, are the root causes of a rape culture in Namibia.
James Itana of the Regain Trust in Namibia, which offers support services to survivors of gender-based violence, says the study builds a “huge case towards alcohol and drug abuse being a key contributing factor”, but warns that these are merely contributing factors that lower inhibitions, but not the root cause.
“There clearly would be existing preconceptions influencing men’s beliefs and attitudes about sex, women’s sexual objectification and male entitlement at play,” he said.
He said Namibian men are taught to “believe they are entitled to the bodies of women and girls. What we are really dealing with is an issue of power and entitlement, which is reinforced through our cultural and religious beliefs.”