Many Namibians’ first reaction to incidences of murder and rape of women is accusations of cheating or the victim’s supposed ‘inviting’ dress code – all of which are irrelevant factors in law.
First Lady Monica Geingos made this observation yesterday when she opened the first ever National Judicial Conference in Namibia at a Windhoek hotel.
She lamented the fact that almost every day Namibians wake up to the news of yet another gruesome murder, rape or assault on a woman or child at the hands of a man.
She said the headlines have become so regular that sustained outrage is reserved only for cases with the most shocking details.
According to her, the first instinct is to find fault and ask questions like “why did she cheat, where were the parents, why didn’t the police respond quicker, why does he allow a woman to beat him, why was she drunk or why was she dressed like that?”
But, according to the first lady, all those questions are irrelevant as there are no circumstances in law where any of those factors are able to justify taking the life of another human being.
Geingos, herself a law graduate, stressed that the Namibian Constitution, hailed as one of the best constitutions in the world, provides for the protection of life, respect for human dignity and equality for all in Articles 6, 8 and 10.
Namibia has further signed and ratified various regional and international conventions and passed laws that protect these rights.
“It is imperative that we ensure these instruments are assimilated and applied pragmatically to create awareness amongst our population and to complement the ability of our government and the relevant institutions, courts in particular, to combat the ‘blight’ of gender-based violence,” she said.
According to her, gender-based violence is a serious crime in Namibia, and offenders must be punished to the fullest extent of the law, but within the parameters of the constitution.
In recent years, she said, the courts have sent a strong message against the abuse of vulnerable people and imposed severe sentences. These sentences should have the effect of deterring would-be offenders from committing these offences, but sadly failed to so, and it is thus imperative to take the voices of magistrates and judges out of the courtroom and into the streets to be heard, Geingos stated.
“It is important that we all use our voices to responsibly advocate for zero tolerance for gender-based violence and ensure that we all play our role in actively shaping and changing problematic societal attitudes to violence in general and gender-based violence specifically.”
She said that while Namibia has qualified people in charge of the various ministries and institutions “we still grapple with what appears to be increasing cases of gender-based violence and persistence of problematic attitudes”. The country is effective, but not efficient, when it comes to combating GBV, with strategic solutions often not implemented. Two national GBV conferences were held, culminating in a coherent and well-formulated list of recommendations that still has not been implemented, Geingos stressed.
“If violent crimes and the abuse of women and children are the norm that is a reflection of who we are as a society … a collective is needed to put a stop to the violence.”
The conference was attended by prominent members of the legal fraternity and other dignitaries and was held under the theme “Judicial Excellence – My Reality.”