Collectivism crucial to curb our shadow pandemic, GBV

ALTHOUGH Namibia is not in the throes of armed conflict, our Gender Based Violence (GBV) statistics resemble a country in turmoil, one that urgently needs solutions fronted by collective responsibility. Indeed, GBV protestors have in the past week put across an undeniable fact that the amount of collective trauma carried by, especially, women and the fear that such trauma invites has become unbearable in our broader society. In essence, we are of the view that the collective anger, the pain and the fear that these killings have caused must strengthen our resolve to end all forms of violence and abuse perpetrated by men against women.

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. Because GBV is pervasive, it can be best tackled when the government and civil society formations establish and resource national machinery to coordinate a campaign against GBV.

As a reactive and blunt instrument, the police and courts are not the solution for dealing with this type of violence. The focus should be on changing patriarchal attitudes and behaviour, particularly in the context of how the country’s history of violent racial oppression has affected men’s identities. Still, there’s much more that the police, prosecutors and courts can do to help gender-based violence survivors.

The police are often the first responders in murder or severe assault cases, and are responsible for gathering evidence; ensuring survivors obtain medical treatment and finding them suitable accommodation. We have read reports that some police stations do not adequately respond to victims. They still lack dedicated and trained personnel to attend to such matters and to give victims legally correct information and other support. This needs urgent redress too. Although women are beginning to take up leadership positions, there is also the need to involve and respect the voices of women and girls, particularly women’s movements who have been found to be a key factor in addressing violence against women.

Apart from this, we acknowledge that the media has to amplify its role in defeating the scourge of GBV. Brutality may capture people’s attention, but a lot of discussion around gender-based violence in Namibia is devoid of contextual analysis. This comes with consequences. It normalises violence and narratives are produced in popular reporting that do not help our society identify the right interventions for dealing with violence.

People come to think that the solution to genderbased violence lies in greater incarceration and retributive justice, rather than interventions with society at large that produces violent men. While we resolve these shortcomings, we must be weary of campaigns that stigmatise all men as deviant. Many men may react by becoming defensive. Potential allies are alienated. GBV will only diminish if men and women unite to fight against it because men who appear to be the main perpetrators have an important role to play in this struggle in sensitising each other and vehemently denouncing this violence. In totality, the fight against GBV cannot be reduced to a single entity. It needs joining of hands and coming up with concrete solutions that propel the birth of a better Namibian society that is safe for everyone, girls and women in particular.