Rape: No means no

13 September 2019 | Crime

Police chief Sebastian Ndeitunga yesterday underlined a woman's right to say no and urged Namibians to band together to end the epidemic of violence by mostly men against women and children in Namibia.

“No means no,” Ndeitunga said. “There is no other interpretation.” He was speaking at the opening of the newly upgraded multi-disciplinary Gender-Based Violence Protection Unit (GBVPU), formerly the Women and Child Protection Unit, at the Katutura State Hospital. He emphasised that men are fuelling the high rates of abuse and violence in Namibia, often as a result of their failure to respect a woman's right to say no. Ndeitunga stressed that violence, including rape and murder, is often linked to the widespread use of alcohol and drugs among Namibians. He said Namibians should start to strongly campaign and work towards finding practical strategies to address the crisis. The police chief further noted there is a need to “where necessary, repudiate some of our cultural practices, which may be harmful and are contributing to gender-based violence”. Khomas regional governor Laura McLeod-Katjirua said: “It is an undeniable fact that our daily working and living environments, every corner in our society has become unsafe, unpredictable and a potential breeding ground for human rights violations.”



She warned that the alarming rate of gender-based violence is destroying communities.







Horror



The police chief said a total of 1 063 cases of rape were reported to the police in 2016, 980 cases were reported in 2017, and 1 121 cases were reported in 2018. Many of these cases involved minors.



He further warned that most incidents of violence against women and children happen at the hands of men they know and trust.



Zhuldyz Akisheva, regional representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), said a study on gender-based violence in the SADC region showed that one in three women have experienced physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime.



Moreover, one in three adolescent girls report their first sexual experience as being forced in some countries.



Akisheva said a 2018 UNODC study, titled 'Home, the most dangerous place for women', found that Africa and the Americas are the regions where women are most at risk of being killed by an intimate partner or family member. In Africa, the rate was around 3.1 victims per 100 000 female population.



Akisheva noted that despite all efforts, several hurdles prevent many from coming forward to report crimes of abuse and violence against them.



Among them is the fact that the abuse often takes place in a home, perpetrated by a family or friend, and survivors are often forced to conceal the crime.







Hope



Ndeitunga noted that the GBVPU facility, which offers survivors of sexual, physical and other forms of abuse a secure centre where they can report crimes and receive support services, will significantly help improve service delivery when dealing with violent crimes against women and children.



He highlighted that the specialised unit, which offers services by the police, social workers, doctors and counsellors, provides safe and private services, creating an environment that is conducive to the reporting of cases.



“The lack of privacy and an improper environment for traumatised survivors of abuse contributed to some women and children being reluctant to report to the police,” he said.



A total of 230 officials from various government agencies received training, funded by UNODC, to deal with gender-based violence and violence against children cases, Ndeitunga said.



The unit is one of 17 across Namibia.



The Katutura GBVPU unit remains one of the most visited units in the country, and aims to be a “one-stop centre of service delivery”.



Akisheva highlighted at the opening yesterday that the UN system in Namibia, including UNICEF and UNODC, as well as the UK national crime agency (CEOP) have long supported the Katutura centre, including with the recent upgrading.



She noted that experience violence, especially sexual violence, is “extremely traumatic”, and globally, law enforcement officers remain the first responders to who survivors turn.



She highlighted that the unit is operating on an integrated services model, in which prevention and care are interwoven to existing services, providing a safe haven for those in need.



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