By Engel Nawatiseb TSUMEB The eradication of social evils can successfully be achieved if all stakeholders in society stand up against the inhumane acts which have targeted innocent women and children in society. The Legal Assistance Centre (LAC)’s Naomi Kisting expressed this opinion when she presented a paper on domestic violence at a workshop held at the town recently. Domestic violence, she noted, takes several forms such as physical, sexual and economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, trespassing, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, threats or attempts at threats. Kisting said the creation of awareness about the Combating of Domestic Violence and Maintenance acts were important campaigns aimed at sharing vital information about the rights of women and children, including men, and also to attract community members to act immediately when faced by violent situations. “People experiencing domestic violence could make an application for a protection order, or if the abuse amounts to crime could lay a charge or do both at the same time. This empowerment tool (protection order) can be used by everybody in the community with the consent of the victim.” Kisting, however, pointed out quickly: “A father who disciplines his child doesn’t commit domestic violence but a father who beats up his child to hospital, even if he does it only once, commits domestic violence.” Manny Kandjii, Chief Executive Chairperson of the Tsumeb Women’s and Children’s Centre (TWCC), will focus its preparation and subsequently implement a special “B-Court Wise” programme to prepare victims of domestic violence for their testimony in courts. “We do not want to prepare them only with accommodation. Indeed our ultimate goal is to prepare the traumatized people for their appearance at the court and minimize the stress which is often connected with the testimony.” According to Kandjii, the victims frequenting the TWCC offices with complaints of domestic violence and rape will receive proper counselling and be prepared emotionally prior to their appearance before courts in order to minimize stress connected with their testimony. “We have acquired services of volunteering peace officers that would literally wear black gowns and establish a real court environment so that the traumatized victims are not surprised to see defence lawyers in their black suits upon accessing our courts. On most occasions, victims panic unnecessarily and contradict their testimony during cross-examination,” said Kandjii. The centre also gained recognition through the “German Development Service Best Practice Certificate” awarded recently in acknowledgement of the organization’s efforts in fundraising and resource mobilization. The German Development Service (DED) has been supporting the centre since 2003 through technical assistance and the more than N$260 000 it has invested in the project during the last three years. The TWCC was founded during 1997 by a group of community members that has expressed concern about the increasing violence against women and children in the Oshikoto Region. Since its inception, the organization reportedly scored numerous successes through multiple activities that were carried out in the region and surroundings. Added Kandjii, “Today the centre is offering family counselling on domestic violence, financial, physical and emotional abuse and all matters of family ill-function.” The centre also provides shelter for women and children that are confronted with abuse at home as well as for children awaiting legal decisions and short-term accommodation for rape witnesses in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice. According to her, violence against women and children, notwithstanding rape, have been frequently reported to the centre, hence the initiation of awareness platforms to conscientise community members about their rights in society. She told New Era that one in five women are in abusive relationships and more than one third of women report having suffered physical or sexual abuse at the hands of an intimate partner. “They are also amongst figures which depict Namibia as a country with a shameful record of domestic violence. These acts of violence are particularly disturbing because the home and the family should be places where people can feel the most secure and safe.” Kandjii further commended efforts initiated by the LAC to involve stakeholders in a bid to mobilize rural communities about the Maintenance and Combating of Domestic Violence acts aimed at minimizing the prevalence rate of such cases amongst ignorant members of society. Dominika Jabubouska, a volunteer associated with the DED, pointing to the rights of children stated that if a child or any other vulnerable witness of domestic violence needs to appear in court, special arrangements would be effected to make the victims feel more comfortable. “The court can also arrange the furniture differently to create a friendlier atmosphere or the vulnerable witness can respond behind a shield so that he/she does not see the accused. The witness can also be accompanied by a social worker,” she noted. Jabubouska stressed that the introduction of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act heralded an era of responsiveness to the right to protection of victims by Government and needed to be respected by potential violators of human rights in the country. The LAC also conducted similar awareness campaigns at Tsumkwe in the Otjozondjupa Region aimed at disseminating information to the most remote parts of the country.
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