GBV APPROACH COMPLETELY WRONG: CONTEH
By Sawi Lutibezi
(NAMPA FEATURES SERVICE)
WINDHOEK, 07 MAY (NAMPA) ? ?He is a rapist and a murderer - he should get life in prison?.
?Let?s bring back the death penalty?.
These are phrases commonly heard in Namibia nowadays, as local news stories increasingly centre on gender-based violence (GBV).
People want to see GBV perpetrators brought to book as demonstrations are held, where mostly women protest against what has sadly become an all-too-common occurrence of the death of another young woman at the hands of a man.
And yet there are those who feel this issue deserves closer scrutiny, as a number of underlying issues might be to blame for the actions of the perpetrators.
?We call them perpetrators, but they are also victims of society,? gender advocate Michael Conteh said in an interview with Nampa on the rapes and murders of a number of young women who were found dead after vicious attacks within weeks of each other.
The 19-year-old Desiree Rooinasie?s body was found in Windhoek?s Goreangab area at the end of March, the same area where 17-year-old Augustineum Secondary School learner Rina !Nau/gawases was raped and killed earlier that month.
The body of Melody !Urikhos, 18, was found between Shandumbala and the Western Bypass in the capital at the beginning of April. In Arandis in the Erongo Region, Roberta Gaeses was killed at the beginning of April, and her body hidden under a pile of rubbish at the Kolin Foundation Secondary School.
Conteh said he agrees that mostly women are on the receiving end of this type of violence.
?But the reason why incidences of GBV are not decreasing in Namibia is that the approach and the coordination of tackling it are completely wrong. The democracy of a country is not about what is done with the good citizens, but how the worst citizens are treated to help them become better citizens,? he stated.
Conteh noted that GBV mirrors what is happening in society, and Namibia cannot curb the magnitude of this kind of violence in society by only dealing with the symptoms.
?GBV is multi-dimensional. When we look at the physical aspect, it can possibly be the manifestation of many of the other types of violence which are out there,? he added.
These types of violence could be emotional violence, physical violence, verbal abuse and economic abuse of the victim at the hands of the perpetrator.
The gender expert said although Government has put policies in place, from his own personal introspection, it always appears to go back to the cosmetics of international best-practices.
Apart from the Namibian Constitution, Government has enacted gender-related laws such as the Combating of Domestic Violence Act 4 of 2003, and the Combating of Rape Act 8 of 2000.
Other laws are the Maintenance Act 9 of 2003, the Married Persons? Equality Act 1 of 1996 and the Labour Act 11 of 2007.
?What the country needs is not the best international practices, we need the best local feed. Our issue is a unique one.
We will want to say yes, GBV is worldwide, but the nature and the peculiarity around the violence in Namibia are unique,? he stressed.
He further stated that it is high time that Namibia stops looking at things such as United Nations? (UN) Conventions only, as they do not solve the country?s problems.
Conteh also indicated that he was pleased to hear a strong statement on GBV made by the people who have a very big stake in curbing it in the country, which is the church.
Last month, Archbishop Liborius Nashenda, Head of the Roman Catholic Bishops' Conference called on the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) television for the expanding income inequality in the country to be lessened.
In a nutshell, the archbishop pointed out that according to the social teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, salaries should be proportional not only to the needs of the worker, but to those of the worker?s family.
Nashenda said the manifold strikes the country experienced last year, combined with such a widening income gap, indicates that it is heading towards more social unrest, further crimes, disappointments and even uprisings.
?The archbishop pinpointed where it hurts. Income distribution and the inequalities in this country are some of the fundamental problems leading to GBV,? Conteh stressed, adding that issues such as the labour unrest mentioned by Nashenda are the manifestations of the violence the country experiences.
He further suggested that an analysis be done on the culprits, saying it could be the beginning of the root causes of GBV to be properly addressed.
?This is a nation at war with itself. It is not Angolans or Nigerians who are killing Namibians, it is Namibians killing Namibians,? he stated.
Meanwhile, clinical psychologist Dr Mara Mberira agreed that it is important that the root causes of GBV be established and treated.
?We should not generalise, because GBV involves different types of abuse such as rape, psychological abuse and physical abuse,? she noted.
Mberira explained that it is important that research is done to find out whether perpetrators of GBV do it for the same or varying reasons.
?Are the people who rape doing it for the same reason as the person who beats a woman, or those involved in verbal abuse or psychological abuse? Maybe we should start unpacking the different types of GBV, and see what the root causes are,? she suggested, adding that a person who rapes a stranger may not have the same reasons as a husband or boyfriend who kills his own wife or girlfriend.
Mberira said if research finds that the reasons are the same, then the country can start looking for common solutions.
?We should not lump GBV as one thing and then start looking at it as one thing, and only look for one solution,? she stated.
There is also a phenomenon that the country has been subscribing to, which is that GBV is an issue of poverty and patriarchy in terms of dominance of men over women.
Mberira questioned why some men who are raised in a patriarchal society are not involved in GBV.
?What can we learn from those men, for example? Is it really a patriarchy issue, or is it an individual issue, meaning that perhaps we have to start profiling the personalities of the perpetrators?? the psychologist asked rhethorically.
She further explained that you also find men who are poor and who were raised in a similar society, but who do not rape.
?This means there are individual differences, and those differences are as a result of people?s personalities,? she added.
Mberira said there is also a need for preventative work, which would identify men or boys who are at risk of committing GBV.
Something should thus be done at an earlier stage on how young boys and girls are socialised to have respect for human dignity, and the right not to violate others.
?How can we help our kids to set boundaries? How can we, for instance, help our young girls and boys to say no to certain types of behaviour at an early age?? she questioned.
Similarly, young girls and women should also be taught a level of self-love and confidence, which would help them to recognise the early signs of a potential abusive partner.
Mberira noted that this might not help everyone identify such signs, but might also help women to remove themselves from abusive relationships, or to even avoid getting into such relationships.
?Sometimes the signs are there in some people,? she noted.
The mistake that most people make is that they interpret such actions as love, when it is not.
Furthermore, Mberira said police officers who deal with GBV should also undergo thorough training in terms of assessment for risks.
She said she recently did training for the Namibian Police Force (NamPol) on another course, but brought in the aspect of GBV.
According to the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MGECW), GBV continues to increase on a daily basis, especially against women and children, despite all its efforts.
GBV cases have steadily increased, going from 12 270 reported in 2007 to the highest number of 14 405 cases reported in 2011.
Last year, 13 275 cases of GBV were reported countrywide.
These range from indecent assaults, attempted rape, rape, assault with the intent to cause grievous bodily harm and murder.