Protests and, pronouncements solve nothing

Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV) are the norm in the Republic of Namibia. The majority of women can expect to be victims on varying levels at some point in their lives. Speeches, meetings and protests will not save a woman from a bullet, a knife or fist in her face. We need to move to the stage where we are willing to dig deep into the core of the sickness in our men who perpetrate GBV and rape and cut it out at the roots. To do this is a game-changer that society is not yet ready for…yet.

It is a good thing that the government is willing to recognize and address on preliminary levels, the SGBV plague in Namibia. The next step needed is not more protests or hollow pronouncements about GBV.

We are inspired by the comments by the Founding Father Dr Sam Nujoma, expressing his outrage at the plague of SGBV in Namibia.

Men killing their wives and girlfriends or beating them; men feeling they have a right to rape a woman – are not new nightmares. Reporting these crimes is increasing. And more people are protesting SGBV. These are important developments. There is a need to plant the seed of change in the social conscious of Namibia. And this is being done.

Now, comes the hard part.

We are not sociologists or psychologists, but we read reports from skilled professionals. Articles identify men with cultural, psychological, and self-esteem misfires in their personalities as likely abusers and rapists. Most of them feel that their fists, guns, and knives make them powerful. They desire to control and to dominate and have no other way to obtain it. Programs to halt SGBV that do not address this pathology in the minds of men are just window dressing.

To decrease SGBV in Namibia, women who tolerate and promote it with their antiquated cultural beliefs must be challenged. A way must be found to address cultural roots for SGBV and respect productive traditions.

In this society, young girls are the servants, maids, kitchen assistants, and lowest on the power totem pole in their homes. Is it a wonder that sexual predators lie in wait for them? They grow up being beaten by their older female relatives for not cooking the pap correctly. They are beaten again by their fathers for not serving his guests properly. No wonder a young man seeing this as he grows up has no problem with GBV.

In the world around them, many abusers feel they have little control over their circumstances. Unemployment, medical issues, under-education and poverty contribute to SGBV on varying levels. When they are at home or in a relationship they believe that is the one place where they can feel that ‘power’ men are raised to expect. But, they end up with a woman who doesn’t see the world the same way they do. The clash is inevitable.

This man, raised with these beliefs has a woman in his life who may assert her own agenda, her personality, and her priorities – which is her right. Maybe she’s smarter or better educated or skilled or has a job. Maybe his girlfriend has other things of importance in her life that she enjoys? And, maybe at some point, she decides she doesn’t want him. Namibian men think a woman is an object that can be bought with gifts and get angry when the reality hits that this is not the case. They have not been taught how to manage these circumstances. Nothing at home or in their culture has taught them to manage situations that conflict with their belief systems and self-image.

With many cases of SGBV, there may also be a suicide. There are deeply psychological, emotional, self-loathing issues that our men are not being raised to handle. This is a flaw in their home environment. This must change.

Budgets for the right programs change harmful cultural practices must come from the government. There are development partners who would be willing to finance them. The Namibian public must help co-finance these long term programs for cultural changes – young girls need freedom and respect in the home or SGBV is always inevitable.

Government is not the cause of SGBV. Shouting for the termination of a minister will not prevent a woman from abuse or murder. It is the people, in their homes and communities who must decide to value women and girls enough to force this change. It will take a long time and consistent public outrage. Women fighting back smartly when they are attacked and educational programs in the home and schools are required. It will not be easy.

The hard, tough changes must be put in place or women will continually be cannon fodder for men. There are no short cuts on the SGBV crisis.

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