Rape Overtakes All Other Crimes

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By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK The numbers of rape and attempted rape cases since independence to 2005, have more than doubled, making it the most serious form of crime currently being committed in Namibia, the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) has said. Statistics taken from research the LAC is conducting on the ‘Implementation of the Combating of Rape Act and Combating of Domestic Violence Act’ indicate that rape cases recorded in 1991, which were 564, increased to 854 in 2000 and went up to 1 184 in 2005. The past three years have seen 1 100 to 1 200 cases of rape and attempted rape cases being reported every year, amounting to about 60 reported cases per 100 000 people of the country’s population. The statistics also indicate that over one third of all victims of rape and attempted rape are under 18 years for both female and male victims. Currently, there are 45 reported cases of rape and attempted rape per 100 000 juvenile population. The LAC said child rape is a serious problem in the country, noting that from 409 police dockets for rapes and attempted rapes committed from 2001 to 2005, which the organisation examined in 16 selected urban and rural locations in nine regions, about 63 percent of the complainants were under 21 years of age. But more shocking, the LAC found that 16 percent of the sample covered involved children under 10 years with more than 6 percent being kids under the age of six. These statistics are documented in a submission to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security on the motion on the Increase in Criminal Activities and Violence against Women and Children, which was made by the LAC’s Coordinator of the Gender Research and Advocacy Project, Dianne Hubbard, last Thursday. Due to this, the LAC has recommended that the government views child rape as a national emergency with government action at its highest levels. “There is need for community education on appropriate parent child relationships, and a campaign in which prominent leaders condemn forced sex in all its forms. “We also recommend a strategy of giving priority to the effective investigation and prosecution of cases of violence against women and children, at least for a particular period of time, with an appropriate commitment of government resources,” said Hubbard. The perpetrators of most of these crimes have been found to be young men of below 18 years, with 13 percent being below 18 years, three cases involving perpetrators below 14 years and in some cases even younger. One fourth of the perpetrators in the sample were below 21 years, with close to two thirds of them under 30 years. Although the police arrest around 70 of the perpetrators of rape, many are not convicted due to reasons ranging from lack of enough evidence to innocence. The LAC commended the police for the arrest rate, which they say is better than in many countries, but recommended that law enforcement agents focus on getting convictions rather than imposing heavier sentences. For instance, of the 329 alleged perpetrators who were arrested, trials were completed for 170 of them and of these 73 were found guilty of rape or attempted rape, while another 18 were found guilty of some other sexual offences and 11 guilty of other crimes arising from the incident. Among the problems that seem to be contributing to this situation are insufficient resources to carry out prompt investigations, withdrawal of cases by victims, lack of resources at the forensic laboratory to carry out DNA testing, and shortage of criminal justice personnel with specialized training in cases involving violence against women and children.