Namibia’s commitment to address the issue of rape and sexual assault must go beyond statements, prayers or whispers of outrage. We need to take action. We must change our society’s sexist, outdated views about females, cultural/traditional second-class citizenship regarding women and girls, and tacit approval of sexual assault by those in our families.

We need aggressive prosecution of those accused; better forensic work to collect evidence; and those who know the rapists and have evidence must testify in court. Unfortunately, Namibia is not prepared to change; therefore, rape, sexual assault, molestation and incest will continue unabated. This is a tragedy.

It is uncertain if the recent spate of stories about the violence of rape in Namibia is a function of an increase in attacks or whether it is an increase in the reporting of attacks. Either way, it is in the hands of the Namibian public to curb this abominable crime of violence in our society.

The rapists are our brothers, fathers, uncles, grandfathers, close neighbours and best friends. People know who they are. But, Namibians have more outrage about cattle theft than rape.

Sexual assault is a subject that makes people nervous. So, people ignore it. Families quietly watch their nephew rape little village girls. They turn a blind eye to their brother who brings his daughter to their homes to rape her over several years; they pay cattle to a father when they are caught raping his 14 year old daughter; and when minors become pregnant it is the girl is blamed and the culpable men and boys get a macho pat on the back.

Our people often proffer incorrect myths that sex education in school, wearing miniskirts, going to school with an unshaved head, or wearing Brazilian extensions are the causes of rape. They are embarrassingly ignorant.

People make absurdly insulting judgemental statements about a woman ‘asking for it’ because she dresses a certain way or goes to a shebeen and was drunk or high. We hear things about rape victims like, “she liked it or she has many kids with different fathers – she’s loose.” Or we hear Neanderthal statements like: “men have urges and needs and she was available.”

Many families pressure women and girls NOT to press rape charges, particularly if the perpetrator is the breadwinner. They push the victim to remain silent about incest or rape by an employer, step-father, teacher, priest, or ‘big man’ in a village. They fear a loss of money or that they will become a target of gossip with little concern for the victim. Namibia has a rape-acceptance culture.

On many occasions, LBGTQI community members are raped and sexually abused or violently assaulted. They suffer in silence because of negative preconceptions about their sexual preferences and gender identification. Even the police scoff at their pain. Namibian society has rendered them vulnerable to abuse and most people don’t care. The bullies who cruelly mistreat them are disgraceful criminals. Is society prepared to change so that these crimes stop? – probably not.

Rape is a crime of violence, brutality and control. Men who commit incest or are rapists of a non-family member or are paedophiles, pursue their sick pleasures regardless of social rules, clothing worn, legal barriers or moral taboos. They will not stop; they must BE stopped. Namibian society must change in order to stop them.

For those who are unclear about what rape is – take note:

“Rape is when sexual intercourse is non-consensual or a person forces another person to have sex against his or her will. Rape includes intercourse in the vagina, anus, or mouth.” (www.webmd.com)

“Sexual assault can cause severe distress, emotional harm and injuries which can’t be seen – all of which can take a long time to recover from. The majority of people who commit rape know their victims and, in some cases, are relatives, friends or work colleagues. (www.met.police.uk)

“Statutory rape refers to sexual relations involving someone below the age of consent. People who are underage cannot legally consent to having sex, so any form of sexual activity with them violates the law. This is true even in situations where they signal their agreement.

“Rape within marriage and relationships can also occur. Sex is about consent. If a partner or husband forces a person to have sex with them, this is rape.” (criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges)