Namibia’s shocking human rights violations

30 June 2015 | Crime

Shocking figures on rape, passion killings, abuse and child prostitution in Namibia have emerged in the latest United States Human Rights Country Report on Namibia. The 2014 report says the country is in breach of three major human rights violations - the slow pace of court proceedings, violence and discrimination against women and children, as well as discrimination and violence based on sexual orientation and gender. The delayed court proceedings, according to the report, resulted in the lengthy pre-trial detention of prisoners under poor conditions. The report, released last week, also says other governmental human rights problems in Namibia include unlawful police killings, the incarceration of juveniles with adults, corruption by officials, and discrimination against ethnic minorities and indigenous people. According to the report, the lengthy pre-trial detention of suspects remain a significant problem in Namibia and by October 2014, there were 3 514 prisoners awaiting trial in holding cells across the country. “The lack of qualified magistrates and other court officials, the high cost to the government of providing legal aid, slow or incomplete police investigations, and procedural postponements resulted in a serious backlog of criminal cases and delays between arrest and trial that could last years,” says the report. It further stated that although the Namibian constitution and laws provide for the right to a fair trial, this right was compromised by long delays in hearing cases in courts and the uneven application of constitutional protection in the customary system. Furthermore, the report says gender-based violence was cause for national concern last year. With more than 40 women that were reported killed by men within the first half of last year. The report highlights the increase in the number of rapes reported from 1 085 in 2011 to 1 119 in 2012, and says it was believed that the actual prevalence of rape was higher, with only a small fraction of cases prosecuted and fewer still resulting in a conviction. According to statistics from the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) more than a third of rape victims withdrew their court cases, due to receiving compensation from the accused, succumbing to family pressure, shame, threats or by being discouraged by the length of time involved in prosecuting a case. The report says that factors hampering rape prosecutions in Namibia included lack of police transport, poor communication between police stations, a lack of expertise in dealing with child rape complainants and the withdrawal of allegations by alleged victims after the filing of charges. According to LAC statistics, police arrested suspects in approximately 70% of reported rape cases, while only 18% of these arrested suspects were convicted. Child abuse also remains a serious problem in Namibia, says the report, with authorities prosecuting crimes against children, particularly rape and incest. According to police records and media reports, in 2011 approximately 750 children and juveniles were killed, raped, or assaulted. The following year that number grew to approximately 870. In the report, non-governmental organisations who work on children’s issues, have expressed the conviction that the true incidents of child abuse greatly exceeded the number of reported cases, including sexual exploitation. The report also reveals that driven by economic pressure or as a means of survival, children that include HIV/Aids orphans and other vulnerable children between the ages of 12 and 14, often engage in prostitution as a means of survival according to information supplied by NGOs. Child prostitution in Namibia occurs in Windhoek and Walvis Bay, and foreign nationals from Southern Africa and Europe were among the clientele, says the report. Such children, the report says, were often victims of abuse before leaving home, entering the sex trade. These vulnerable children are offered money, cellphones or other gifts by their older clients. Sadly, the report points out that neither the government nor civil society keep statistics on sex tourism, although there was anecdotal evidence that it existed. Furthermore, the report notes that public discrimination and violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons remained a problem in Namibia. The report states that the Ombudsman’s Office reported that LGBT persons were often subject to ridicule and even physical and verbal abuse. In September, a man sexually assaulted a lesbian in Windhoek, because he wanted to “cure” her of her lesbianism. “When she sought medical help at a State hospital, the receptionist told her to return later and publicly announced the lesbian had been raped.” The Ombudsman’s Office reported that many cases of human rights violations against LGBT persons went unrecorded, including the use of “corrective rape” against lesbians, families disowning LGBT children, and the beating of LGBT persons, the report revealed. WINDHOEK ELLANIE SMIT

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