It makes me sad and angry that I have to wrote yet another column on sexual violence in Namibia.
A 53-year-old teacher at Jan Mohr Secondary School in Windhoek has been arrested for the rape of a 19-year old schoolboy.
It took several days for the case to be reported, and several more for the arrest to be made. It is reported that the same teacher was accused of a similar crime seven years ago, but was allowed to continue in his employment at the school.
It the wake of this incident, reports have emerged of other teachers making inappropriate comments and gestures, engaging in what can only be described as sexual harassment.
As a teacher myself – heck, as a human being – this makes me had as hell. This kind of thing should not be happening anywhere.
If you’re not outraged, you haven’t been paying attention.
The Namibian government must implement a sexual offenders’ register and open it for public viewing. They must reform the police and social work systems to better serve rape and domestic violence victims.
Prison has been shown to not rehabilitate most offenders. Alternative sentences, which involve re-education, therapy, and the offender performing service for the community he has wronged, should take its place.
But also, we ordinary Namibians should take a good, long, hard look in the mirror.
In the Jan Mohr case, it was reported that the boy’s father was initially unwilling to press charges because the rapist ‘belonged to the same political party’. I hope this is not true, but who would be surprised?
In my experience, we Namibians are all too ready to condemn rape unless the perpetrator is our friend, our fellow party member, our CEO, an elder at our church. Then suddenly, it must be all false, how could you even think he would do such a thing?
We men, especially need to take a good long look at ourselves.
Even though the victims of sexual violence are often men and boys as well as women and girls, the perpetrators are almost always men.
We should examine what in the way we were brought up leads to us men keeping on committing these crimes. Were we told that manhood means power and control, regardless of the consequences? Have we been told that no one says no to a real man?
If so, we should start telling our sons something different, and straight away!
How sad that in the pictures of the initial protests at the school, only girls can be seen waving placards supporting their classmate! How sad that some of us men, in conversation, seem compelled to defend guys we’ve never even met!
When are us white Namibians going to admit that sexual and gender-based violence is our problem too, that it is present in our communities, however much families might use their privilege and influence to push incidents under the rug?
I would have expected better of the ‘Land of the Brave’, but I am at least encouraged by the young people at protests and on social media, who seem determined not to let this matter rest.
Sadly, this is not the end. This rape case will not be the last. But maybe, somehow, it might be a turning point. At least, one can hope.
Hugh Ellis is a Namibian citizen and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Communication at the Namibia University of Science and Technology. The views he expresses here are personal views. Follow his blog at http://ellishugh.wordpress.com