There are instances where women reportedly abuse protection orders to settle personal scores with the fathers of their children, who are no longer in love with them, some men said at a workshop held at Okuryangava in Windhoek last weekend.
“When a protection order is issued, a man is given an opportunity to give their side of the story, but oftentimes men don’t talk and are unable to defend themselves,” said the executive director of Women’s Action for Development (WAD), Salatiel Shinedima, who noted that most men do not have an adequate understanding of protection orders.
Shinedima spoke on the sidelines of a workshop on gender-based violence where several men expressed doubts and confusion over protection orders. Some of the concerns that emerged were that some women tend to exaggerate or even fabricate stories when applying for protection orders, just to get their husbands out of the house in order to do whatever they want.
“Such behaviour can lead to violence,” said Shinedima. He added that, “Even if there is some truth to some of the concerns why women apply for the protection orders, they may add things to draw a picture of an evil man. The State is more lenient towards women.”
He said although it is not permitted that the protection order be violated, often the victims – who in many cases are women – tend to violate it by contacting the person they are being protected against.
Furthermore, he pointed out that one weakness of protection orders is that both victim and abuser do not undergo counseling once the order has lapsed. This, he said, is dangerous as there may still be resentment and anger, which can lead to further violence.
“The only way to avoid protection orders and going to court is to avoid abusing women,” Mikka Joseph, one of the participants told fellow men who attended the workshop.
Yolande Engelbrecht of the Legal Assistance Centre’s gender division also said there is a misunderstanding of protection orders. Yet, more people apply for a protection order than people who die in car accidents, she added. She said it is “virtually impossible” to abuse the protection order as people swear under oath.
“Defrauding the legal system is punishable by law,” said Engelbrecht. She also said men cannot be blamed for misunderstanding the protection order. “People are not informed enough about this procedure,” she said, explaining that the primary aim of a protection order is for the respondent to not commit any further acts of domestic violence.
She said the police have the responsibility to inform the victim and perpetrator as to what the protection order means when it is being served. She also expressed concern that it takes too long to serve protection orders. “That is the problem. That’s a dangerous stage and that is how people get killed,” she said, adding that the perpetrator of violence may abuse that loophole.