NC Backtracks on Sex Report

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By Frederick Philander WINDHOEK THROUGH sheer political ingenuity and manoeuvring, a report on the plight of Namibian sex workers was yesterday accepted by the National Council as a first phase of a broader investigation. Chairman of the Standing Committee: Gender, Youth and Information, Sebastian Karupu cleverly outsmarted his opponents, who the day before summarily rejected the same report considered to be of no real value to the National Council, by way of a motion without notice that caught everyone unawares. It was already too late to formally oppose the motion requesting the previous day’s decision that rejected the report to be rescinded. The motion was unopposed, accepted and confirmed as a binding decision by the Deputy Chairperson of the National Council, Margareth Mensah-Williams, who tabled a motion for an investigation into the sex industry of the country on October 6 this year. The chairperson of the Committee on Legal Affairs, Tuhafeni Ndemula and the Chief Whip, Johnny Hakaye, later during Karupu’s motivation of the motion, vehemently objected to the NC Deputy chairperson’s confirmation of the motion. “A unanimous decision was yesterday taken and accepted that the said report be referred back to the committee responsible for it,” Ndemula reminded the Deputy chairperson, who was not in the House the previous day. “Yes, but the motion you have just accepted asked that that decision be withdrawn and that the report on the sex industry in the country be accepted together with the provision of a new mandate to the committee to continue with its work,” Margareth Mensah-Williams responded, to which Johnny Hakaye in turn objected. “The House rejected the report the day before because the committee didn’t complete its work according to the mandate. In my opinion, the report stands rejected, but I find it strange to be confronted by this motion,” Hakaye said after which the presiding chairperson ruled him out of order. In his motion that took the House by surprise, Karupu expressed sympathy with those who rejected the report “because the rejection was taken on the basis of incorrect information”. “We have considered various modalities as how to undertake this very important assignment. We identified certain critical issues that required special attention and approach that conform to a feasible research methodology. On the plight of the sex workers alone there were 30 oral and written submissions, outweighing the intensity of research needed for the other research field to which the committee was assigned,” Karupu said. According to the chairman, breaking up the study into phases was the most appropriate and viable option. “Street kids and vulnerable persons are not necessarily directly related to the plight of sex workers. However, both social problems need to be investigated thoroughly and solutions found to address them through the formulation of appropriate policy instruments. Also alcohol and drug abuse are interrelated and interconnected in many ways and at times lead to violence and unbecoming behaviour,” Karupu, who explained that the committee took his position in efforts to avoid crowding too many issues at once and achieve little, said. “We thought it fit to push for a motion to consider granting us another mandate to undertake the second phase of the study, which will focus on the remaining aspects of the study. However, it is not the opinion of the committee that commercial sex be legalised in Namibia. We recommended that government and other stakeholders combine efforts to create projects to assist sex workers to earn a decent income instead of selling their bodies on the streets,” he explained. Thereafter the motion requesting the committee’s mandate be renewed for it to proceed with the second phase of the study was unanimously accepted by the National Council, which has adjourned until next year.

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