The fear of being alive

29 September 2020 | Columns

Elizabeth Joseph

Namibia, and the world in general, is anything but safe right now. Every morning when you open newspapers, listen to the news and scroll down your social media timeline, all you see and hear is how people succumb to sexual and physical violence, especially women.

Working as a media practitioner doesn’t make it easier because as much as I’d rather not know these things, we have to report on it.

Violence against women and children isn’t something that just started. In fact, this has been a cancer in our society for years, but I don’t know why it feels more personal now.

Why now when there are so many other things that need our attention?

Shannon Darlikie Wasserfall is still missing, there’s no justice and consolation for Cheryl Avihe Ujaha’s parents and every day you hear of one sexual assault after another. Every day.

Just this weekend, a man was raped in Okuryangava by two other men. Recently, two-week-old Charmaine Moss was raped by her own father and succumbed to her injuries.

This list is longer than what I can recall right now and that makes me sick and scared.

I’m not only scared for myself and other women and girls, but for the children we want to have in future.

How can I be so selfish to bring children into this life knowing that this is the norm?

No justice. No perpetrator seems to ever be found. This precedence was set with Magdalena Stoffels in 2010 already, a decade ago.

So, now we ask ourselves: Has nothing changed? A decade and nothing changed?

Our hearts are so tired and it feels like a wave of hopelessness has swept over the nation and over mankind as a whole.

Hashtags upon hashtags to help bring light to situations like child trafficking and lost girls. #SaveOurChildren every day; opening your Facebook and scrolling for less than five minutes it will definitely pop up.

It’s almost social media religion at this point. Share this, post that, send love and light then maybe these missing girls will reappear. Maybe men will act differently and with more respect and less hostility towards women and children.

One more like and maybe we will be able to live in a Namibia where we can truly be free. No more being afraid of taxi rides and overthinking because we say yes to hanging out with our male friends.

Let’s talk about rape culture, which can be described as is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalised due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.

Behaviours commonly associated with rape culture include victim blaming, slut-shaming, sexual objectification, trivialising rape, denial of widespread rape, refusing to acknowledge the harm caused by sexual violence, or some combination of these.

It has been used to describe and explain behaviour within social groups, including prison rape and in conflict areas where war rape is used as psychological warfare. Entire societies have been alleged to be part of rape culture. It is associated with rape fantasy and rape pornography.

The notion of rape culture was developed by second-wave feminists, primarily in the United States, beginning in the 1970s. Critics of the concept dispute the existence or extent of rape culture, arguing that the concept is too narrow or that, although there are cultures where rape is pervasive, the idea of a rape culture can imply that the rapist is not at fault but rather the society that enables rape.

There have been many movements that been made in order to address rape culture in Namibia and the world, such as SlutShameWalk and Me Too. These movements have helped share people's stories through the use of hashtags.

Sometimes I feel so hopeless and I know many people share my sentiments because there’s not much we can do but hopelessly stand by and share a few posts on social media.

We have been urged countless times to stand together as a community of tired people against violent crimes, most of them of a sexual nature.

Although it’s harder to stand together now, it’s vital that we find sustainable ways in which we can help combat these issues as well as educate one another.

I firmly believe that it is not women who should be having these discussions with men, but rather men who should make it their sole mandate to educate each other and hold each other accountable in every way, shape and form.

Instead of allowing your friends to boast about how many women they can get in a night, foster a brotherhood that can speak openly about sexual issues that involve rape and respect.

That’s all we can do for each other. Communicate and build a Namibia where we have these discussions as a preventative and informative measure against gender-based and sexual violence against women and children.

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