Government promises rafts of GBV reforms

Helena Johannes

The government has been forced to implement a raft of new measures to fight Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the country as a response to a petition that was handed by protestors to Minister of Justice, Yvonne Dausab last week.

Some of the new measures will include the establishment of a Sexual and GBV Offences Court, reviewing of sentencing laws for sex offenders, expedition of current murder and sexual offence trials, 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 Unit.

“The government reiterates the seriousness of Gender Based Violence. The current legal and policy environment shall be strengthened to deal with the GBV matters,” Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa Amadhila said on Tuesday.

“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 infrastructures will be used in this regard, and where space is a constraint within the sector, arrangements will be made to use other available infrastructures.”

This comes after hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Windhoek seeking for action and definitive intervention by the cabinet on GBV and rape.

Protesters are urging the law to disallow the withdrawal of GBV cases. The Prime Minister said there are instances where lodged cases are withdrawn by victims themselves.

“While the State has the authority to continue to pursue cases even when withdrawn, it does make strenuous efforts to do so. The conclusion of such cases becomes difficult, as cases rely on witnesses. Prosecutions need cooperation from victims and witnesses to give evidence,” she said.

The government claims that most of the petition’s suggestions were already ongoing, such as the Sexual Offenders’ Register. The Prime Minister said the government has already commenced its research efforts towards implementation of this point.

“This process will be pursued with expediency. Currently, the registry is provided for under the Domestic Violence act in respect of sex offenders in cases involving victims below the age of 18 years,” she said adding that the government will continue to mobilize more financial and logistical resources to enable the law enforcement agencies to conduct more operations and patrols as part of GBV prevention across the country.

“We are in full agreement with the public that this situation cannot be allowed to continue. We assure the Namibian people that the measures announced as requested for implementation will be implemented with expediency and commitment.”

Ndiilo Nthengwe, one of the protest leaders, said she will be satisfied by the response only when all of what was agreed upon is put in action. “We have already been getting these statements but no action has been taken. The police are not specifically patrolling with a focus on GBV prevention.”

Nthengwe also questioned why the government has not put these strategies in action before the petition. “Were they waiting for us to demonstrate? When were they going to implement all of this?” she questioned.

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