Over 2500 GBV cases withdrawn 2019

By Maria Kandjungu

OVER 2 596 victims of gender-based violence (overwhelmingly women) withdrew GBV cases last year, despite police concerns that such actions intensify the cycle of domestic violence.

According to statistics provided to Confidente by the Namibian Police, 7 127 cases of GBV were lodged in 2019 countrywide, but 2 595 were withdrawn, while in 2018 out of 7 157, a similar number of 2 606 cases where withdrawn.

This translates to at least one in every three victims of GBV who reported perpetrators at different police stations countrywide later going back and withdrawing those cases before the law could take its course.

The majority of the case withdrawals were recorded in Windhoek, where 1 563 cases were withdrawn out of the 3 689 that were reported, followed by Oshakati with 374 withdrawals out of 625 reported cases.

Trailing behind is Walvis Bay where 172 of 384 were withdrawn and Outapi with 108 out of 384 withdrawn.

Raising concern over the alarming trend, Head of the Criminal Investigations Directorate Commissioner Nelius Becker said the continuous withdrawal of these cases not only undermined the police work as possible interventions are blocked but at times resulted in fatalities.

Becker cautioned that violence, especially domestic violence is a cycle that will repeat unless the victim stands their ground and exercises their human rights by reporting these violations and for the police to pursue such cases until it is heard in a court of law.

He noted that one of the common reasons cited by victims when withdrawing their cases, despite their seriousness, includes their lack of confidence in the justice system.

“They do not need to fear the criminal justice system because they are the victims and only they know what happened to them, provided they keep on telling the truth from the time of report up till the trial phase,” Becker said.

He further added that while some victims stated that they wished to move on with their lives and therefore withdrew cases before trial, others often noted family pressure, fear of retaliation, threats, intimidation, bribes, compensation, stigma, labelling, shame, fear of rejection by family members, financial dependency, and a belief that the intimate partners would change as reason why they withdrew such cases.

“The cycle of violence does not stop, same victims re-occurring, and children are severely affected emotionally and psychologically,” he cautioned.

Women’s rights activist Rosa Namises said the dynamics of violence have changed as, according to her, 2019 saw perpetrators preying on women’s insecurities as patterns of abuse were increasingly intended to break and silence them.

“I think much more than other years, we were playing with the feelings of insecure and unprotected people. They were testing the response…  Women were put in the ‘what do we do?’ state. The violence was deeply emotional and there was a lot of ‘silent abuses’,” Namises stated, adding that emotional abuse leads to women going back to withdraw the cases.

“We even heard media reports of violence from the high level,” she stated pointing out the case of Namibia Qualifications Authority CEO Franz Gertze, who was arrested for shooting his wife, but was released from custody after his wife asked for the case to be withdrawn.

According to Namises, this trend has shown that women are traumatised and hopeless that even high-level people are struggling to deal with GBV.

“It’s visible in the way that women continue to protect their husbands, who beat, cheat and abuse them and this is becoming the illness of our households. And it not just women, but… our girls. They are being introduced to a culture of violence, abuse and rape which they are sort of expected to accept.”

She further called on women to look out for each other and stand firm and fearlessly participate in the fight to address these issues.

Besides the daily news of rape, murder and abuse that hog the headlines, Dianne Hubbard coordinator of the Legal Assistance Centre’s Gender Research and Advocacy Project, said other social indicators, such as reckless driving and the high rate of suicide show that Namibian society is characterised by a general disregard for the value of life.

“I believe that the only hope is to start with children, making a concerted effort to teach them to treat others with respect and to solve problems without resorting to violence. This why the Legal Assistance Centre has been promoting alternatives to corporal punishment for disciplining children.”

She said many people argue that they were beaten as children and turned out fine, therefore it is good and well to beat their own children, but Namibian society is not fine overall. “I believe that we have to treat children in a way that breaks all links between love and violence. We would also like to see the promotion of more family counselling and mediation services, and an increase in programmes to assist people who abuse alcohol or other substances.”