Choose to challenge gender mischief

INTERNATIONAL Women’s Day celebrated earlier this week offers us an opportunity to reflect on how women in our broader society have continued to suffer violence of all kinds and why now more than ever, we are better armed to fight this social injustice.

This year’s theme, Choose to challenge, perfectly captures the social changes and feelings we have witnessed over the last year. Despite the immense difficulties we have faced due to the pandemic, Namibians are seemingly coming together to vie for not just equality and inclusion of all kinds but also challenging cultural institutions that have held women back for decades.

Be that as it may, we also acknowledge that there still is a long way to go before we can rid our society of gender related ills, gender based violence (GBV) in particular. For years, we have witnessed how the Namibian society has been marred by violence against women, violence that in most cases is shielded from the law by close relatives of the victims.

We have also noted with dismay how many cases requiring urgent redress and justice such as rape cases have relentlessly grown cold after dockets were opened, a situation that perhaps demands an overhaul of our enforcement laws. In our main article this week, we showcase how a young girl who allegedly has been a victim of rape has failed to get justice over the last seven years in a period in which close relatives allegedly shielded the villain – who happens to be the father of this victim – from prosecution.

This is just but an example of many other numerous cases out there that have seen abusers easily get off the hook and freely live their lives at the expense of unsuspecting future victims. A legal system which favours those with financial resources and political influence is also perpetuating this unfair and unjust reality.

Last year, Nampol reported that during the 18 months ended June 2020, 1 604 rape cases were reported. In 2019, the Gender-based Violence Protection Unit also reported that between December 2018 and September 2019 it received, on average, 200 cases of domestic violence per month.

These statistics have compounded GBV as the most common form of oppression that women and young girls face in our society and again; there is no denying that this needs to change.

Indeed, GBV is not the only ill that women across the globe are suffering. While we united on International Women’s Day to celebrate, we were reminded that true gender equality does not yet exist anywhere in the world. Women are still paid less than men for the same work, and they do 2.6 times more unpaid care and domestic work. In many countries, women do not have equal access to land, credit or economic and educational opportunities, so when disaster strikes, it’s usually women who often suffer the most.

For this reason, we stand in support of the call for women and everyone else to choose to challenge gender bias and inequality. International Women’s Day is thus a reminder to both celebrate how far we have come and also acknowledge how much work is still left to be done. This work must start with us choosing to challenge gender based ills that Namibia suffers from.