Namibia needs equality courts: Walters

15 Sep 2015 13:50pm
WINDHOEK, 15 SEP (NAMPA) – Namibia needs an equality court to deal with issues of discrimination, equality, and human rights, Ombudsman Advocate John Walters says.
Walters was speaking here on Monday during an information-sharing meeting with San women leaders from M’kata in the Otjozondjupa region; Tsintsabis in the Oshikoto region; Drimiopsis in the Omaheke region and Omega One in the Zambezi region.
The meeting was organised by the Women’s Leadership Centre (WLC) and saw the women amongst others discuss the discrimination they face with the Ombudsman.
“I would like to suggest to government an equality court like in South Africa,” Walters said.
The equality courts deal with matters of unfair discrimination; publication of information that unfairly discriminates; harassment; and hate speech.
Although the equality court is a formal court sitting, the rules and procedures are more relaxed than in normal courts. The court room itself is usually not as intimidating as an ordinary court, according to the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Development of the Republic of South Africa’s website. The proceedings are held in a room that is arranged in boardroom style where the complainant and the respondent sit on either side. Normal rules of the magistrates’ court apply but the presiding officer does not apply them in a rigid manner when conducting the proceedings.
Walters raised the concern that there is no justice for discrimination cases in courts in Namibia. If so, it is a very slow process, according to him.
Walters said despite significant progress made by Government to address the plight of the San over the years, some work still remains to be done. He said it is a shame that some people, especially the San and people living with disabilities are labelled second-class citizens.
“They do not claim special rights; they just need respect for their rights, and ask to be treated equally,” Walters said.
He also questioned the term “One Namibia, One Nation” and the benefits thereof for citizens.
Expressing shock about the living conditions of the San in Namibia, Walters said: “I am sad to hear such things still happen in Namibia.”
The women leaders complained about State service providers who they say refuse them access to schools, clinics, ambulances and hospitals. Amongst other complaints, they said extreme poverty and social exclusion result in the ill health of many of the San. Malnutrition, lack of clean water and sanitation also cause high rates of maternal and child mortality, while alcohol abuse is also a major social problem.
Poverty and alcohol abuse also results in many young women starting relationships with sugar daddies. These relationships result in unwanted pregnancies and high dropout school rates. In some cases, girls are forced into early marriages to support parents.
The WLC is a feminist organisation based in the capital. It was established in 2004. Its core activity is to promote women’s writing and other forms of personal and creative expression as a form of resistance to discrimination and oppression embedded in society, with the aim of developing indigenous feminist activism in Namibia.