Andrew Kathindi

Organizers of the protest against gender-based violence (GBV), which has been ongoing since last week, have threatened to continue with “disruptions” should government fail to meet them for an official engagement.

This comes after government was forced to implement several new measures in the fight against gender-based violence in a response to a petition handed over to government through the Justice Minister, Yvonne Dausab, on Thursday last week.

The organizers have requested to meet government in order to strengthen the measures that were announced by Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa in parliament on Tuesday 13 October.

“To facilitate such engagement, we will organize ourselves and establish a working committee which will, in the interim, engage the central government. Should these efforts which are aimed at formally collaborating with the government not come to fruition, or not bear satisfactory results; disruption will resume,” said the official statement by the organizers of the #ShutItAllDownNamibia movement, which was issued by Lebbeus Hashikutuva, one of the organizers of the protest.

This comes after over 20 protestors were arrested and charged on Saturday 10 October after chaos broke out during the protest when police discharged tear gas into a crowd of unarmed, non-violent anti-gender-based violence demonstrators. The protestors were released on Monday 12 October after the Prosecutor General, Martha Imalwa, reviewed the submissions and declined to prosecute.

The organizers of the protest were furthermore not impressed with the new measures that government gave in response to their petitions, and questioned why all of their demands were not considered by the office of the Prime Minister.

“The measures announced by the Cabinet are devoid of timelines, deadlines and offices responsible for them and this makes it near impossible to hold the government accountable to them,” said protest organizers.

They further stated, “The measures do not exhaust all our demands, particularly those which pertain to the declaration of a State of Emergency in respect of SGBV and femicide; the resignation of the Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Doreen Sioka and the development and implementation of a national rape and sexual assault prevention programme for schools in the basic education system.”

On Tuesday 13 October, the Prime Minister promised that government would implement new measures to fight gender-based violence as an answer to the protestors call, which she said have been approved by cabinet.

Some of the new measures include the establishment of sexual and GBV Offences Court, a reviewing of sentencing laws for sex offenders, expedition of current murder and sexual offences, reviewing current prisoners in the correctional services system in order to separate known repeat-offenders, capacitate forensic investigators and experts and the provision of remote and mobile GBV Protection Units.

“The recruitment and training of personnel in the areas of biological trace identification is prioritised starting this financial year and the establishment of such courts has been agreed upon. Existing court infrastructure will be used in this regard, and where space is a constraint within the sector, arrangements will be made to use other available infrastructures.”