Crisis of child rape as thousands suffer

10 July 2017 | Crime

The Namibian police investigated 1 661 cases of rape of minors below the age of 18 over a period of four years from 2013 to 2016. Of these victims, 1 577 were girls and 84 were boys.

In June, Namibian Sun reported that the police had investigated 3 863 alleged rapes of children and teenagers below the age of 18 between 2003 and 2012. Of these victims, 3 656 were girls and 207 boys.

In total, the number of Namibian Police investigations of child and teenage rape allegations over a span of 13 years was 5 524, from 2003 to 2016.

Investigations of attempted rape and assault with intent to rape of minors in addition to the rape investigations between 2003 and 2012 increased the number to a total of 4 206 investigations.

Of these investigations, 3976 were linked to females and 230 to male.

Records on the number of successful or failed prosecutions of persons charged with rape have not been made available to Namibian Sun.

Social workers and others working on gender-based violence in Namibia warn that the high rate of child rape, attempted rape or assault of children is likely on the increase, but the problem is complex and requires a multi-pronged approach.

In July, police crime reports show that five new cases of rape are being investigated, including a serious assault of a two-year-old boy.

On 1 July, a 14-year-old girl was allegedly raped by a 26-year-old man at Bethanie and a nine-year-old boy was allegedly raped in the Kavango West Region.

On 2 July, police arrested a man who is accused of raping a two-year-old toddler, who had been sleeping in the same room.

On 3 July, a three-year-old was allegedly raped by a 14-year-old boy, who lured her to his home with sweets.

On 5 July, police charged a 30-year-old man with rape after he allegedly sexually assaulted an 11-year-old girl.

Social workers have also warned that the actual number of children and teenagers being raped is likely much higher as many go unreported for a number of reasons, including family cover-ups, cultural practices, shame and more.

“The issue of statutory rape in Namibia is for instance one issue that requires a lot of attention, given the high incidence of teen pregnancies,” Lifeline/Childline counsellors Charlemaine Husselmann and James Itana told Namibian Sun recently.

They also warned that many Namibians remain staunchly silent on the issue of child rape and that Namibians “do not hold each other accountable and do not speak out against such acts. Men also do not hold each other accountable and we have made it acceptable for men to sexually harass women.”

Despite the overwhelming silence, some have spoken up.

In June, the chief of the police, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, spoke up on the issue of child rapes in Namibia, urging Namibians to take a strong stance against this social problem.

Ndeitunga said a closer look should be taken at the role of traditional practitioners on the issue and urged family members to speak up when their children are raped, instead of protecting or hiding the rapists.

“This is totally unacceptable in a nation such as ours and is leading to a moral collapse of our society.”

In June, the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare said several factors could contribute to the high rate of sexual abuse of children and teenagers in Namibia.

These include alcohol and drug abuse, unemployment and high levels of poverty, child neglect as well as overcrowding in homes where children become more vulnerable to predatory adults.

“Children are generally vulnerable due to their tender age. That makes them easy targets for abuse including rape. They do not have the mental capacity, the physical strength, or the experience to enable them to stop the abuse,” a ministry spokesperson said.

The ministry also said that apart from awareness programmes and support structures, officials there work closely with the office of the prosecutor-general as well as social workers and police investigators.

These networks are aimed at ensuring that rape cases, especially of minors, “receive the urgent attention they deserve”.

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