By Wezi Tjaronda WINDHOEK Namibia will next year hold a policy dialogue forum as it looks for ways to combat rampant violence against women and children. The forum is aimed at providing a platform for discussion on ways to close the gaps between legislation related to women and child protection and enforcement. Prime Minister Nahas Angula said on Friday the alarming statistics of women and children subjected to violent crimes indicates that the “wonderful laws put in place are not adequately translated into concrete action. “While acknowledging progress on legislation for protection of women and children’s rights, law reforms have not fully translated into behavioural change in some areas and as such women and children continue to suffer as victims of domestic violence, while the scourge of HIV/AIDS has worsened their status,” said the Prime Minister when he launched the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Based Violence campaign. Statistics indicate that about 600 cases of rape and 150 cases of attempted rape are reported to the Namibian police annually, with more than 20 percent of all violent crimes in Namibia occurring as domestic violence. At least 2 000 cases of gender-based violence are reported to the policy annually. The days of activism, which start on November 25 and to run till December 10 annually, is an international campaign aimed at stopping violence against women and children. The theme Violence, HIV, and Young Women’s Vulnerability, relates to the increase in gender-based violence the past year. Angula said Namibia could not commemorate the period with joy in the midst of the loss of lives of women and girls and Namibia could not pretend that everything is fine and forget about the women and children that have been killed while the country is reflecting on the achievements that Namibia has made. Many families have lost breadwinners and the country loses productive citizens to gender-based violence, while the costs accruing to the state through state hospitals in treating survivors of abuse remain high. Civil society feels that the government should ensure that it, among others, allocates enough financial resources to institutions dealing with gender-based violence. Coordinator of Women Solidarity, Rosa Namises, said at the launch that other activities that should be carried out include conducting an audit on activities that have been implemented on gender-based violence and conducting intensive training for the police to make them aware of the role of women and child protection units, which she said some members of the force are not aware of. She also called on the government to better resource the courts and also asked courts not to release suspects of violent crimes against women and children out on bail. Chief Justice Peter Shivute said it was important for the courts and law enforcement agencies such as the police to keep up-to-date accurate statistics of reported gender-based crimes to determine the extent to which sentences imposed have succeeded in reducing the incidences of those offences. Shivute wondered whether the increase in incidences of rape and violence could be attributed to ineffectual sentences or awareness among affected members or rather to people feeling more empowered to report cases than was the case before. “It cannot be over-emphasized that it is crucial for law enforcement agencies, such as police units responsible for investigating crimes, to bear in mind that their duty is not only to the victims of abuse, but also those accused of abuse,” Shivute said, adding that not every accused is found guilty. Speedy and effective trials, added the chief justice, would be in the interest of both the victim and the accused. “Victims and their families are entitled to have court cases, which often deal with unpleasant and traumatizing events, completed and put behind them in order for them to start the process of rebuilding their lives,” he said.
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