Ignorance One of Main Contributing Factors to Crime

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By Petronella Sibeene WINDHOEK Ignorance about most laws in the country, particularly the Combating of Rape Act 2001, remains one of the main contributing factors to crimes committed by men against women, girls and children, a recent study has revealed. The “Understanding Violent Crimes Against Women and Girls among Convicted Prisoners in Namibia: Implications for Prevention and Treatment” report tabled yesterday shows that inmates are ignorant about the law, thus the need for an educational campaign. In the past, rape meant sexual intercourse without the consent of a woman or whoever might be involved. Testimony or evidence provided by women was doubted if there were no other witnesses. Under the new Act, rape goes beyond just sexual intercourse, and one can be convicted as long as the evidence provided is substantial. “Most of the perpetrators are ignorant of what the new Rape Act constitutes and that having sex against their partner’s will is a criminal offence,” read the report. There is a need to educate men on the laws of the country especially those regarding offences against women and children, one participant suggested during the just ended SADC Conference on Violent Crimes Against These Vulnerable Groups. Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Namibia, Dr Kazuvire Veii, who was actively involved in the study, recommends that the judicial system should embark on a countrywide campaign especially on the 2001 Rape Act which re-defines rape. “It does not make sense to many men, especially those on the lower ranks of society when one says that they raped their own wives or a girlfriend of ten years,” he said. The study also shows that cultural factors, alcohol consumption, low levels of education, lack of employment, socio-economic marginalization, broken family systems and poor socialization were all contributing factors that underlie the violent crimes committed against women and children. Veii added that this problem calls for a multi-disciplinary approach. At school level, young boys and girls should be taught about how to walk out of relationships with dignity and not involve themselves in incidents that harm their ex-partners. Traditional authorities should also get involved in addressing cultural practices, and spiritual leaders should strongly teach what the scriptures recommend in terms of how husbands should love their wives, he said. Some perpetrators perceived the criminal justice system as biased towards women and that the current rehabilitation programmes for prisoners in Namibia are inadequate, especially the psychotherapeutic aspects for modifying deviant behaviour. Potential personal traits also play a role of a violent disposition, which could be assessed in advance by clinical psychologists, the report adds. Some cultural groups across the country are more prone to committing violent crimes towards women and children, a factor which, according to the research recommendation, should be considered by various stakeholders if violence in society is to be adequately addressed. Common characteristics of inmates include the age group of between 26-35 years with mostly primary education. Their marital status shows that they cohabit, and their previous employment status shows that they worked even though it was mostly manual work. The study was conducted by the Women’s Action for Development (WAD), the University of Namibia (UNAM) and the Ministry of Safety and Security.