As gender-based violence incidents continue unabated, well-renowned Pastor Ngeno Nakamhela feels the church in the country is not actively involved in the fight against violence committed against women and children.
“Society plays a decisive role in the prevention of violence and the church even more so because it is responsible to preach to the people. Churches need to be proactive because they have an enormous influence and coverage in communities. But the church voice and the voice of the church leaders in recent times seem to be missing,” he said.
He was speaking at the Namibian Church Leaders workshop held in Windhoek earlier this week.
Nakamhela said the voice to speak out against violence and children has been heard for long with little change in the GBV patters.
“We have for long enough sang the song of anti-violence against women and children, through the singing of this song, loopholes and false notes have been created,”Nakamhela said worryingly.
Nakamhela also urged community members not to shun males who have been abused by their wives.
“I have four sons, all four got married, three of them are now divorced because they were abused by their wives. But instead of returning the abuse, they opted for divorce because they knew their father has been at the forefront of fighting against violence against women and children,” he narrated.
Nakamhela further said: “I have seen tears of men abused by their wives, I listened to stories of men when they confess yet we do little to lift them up. We failed as a church to raise awareness that there are men in our society being humiliated and abused by their wives, we need to look at that aspect.”
The public do not take them seriously while some are ashamed to report abuse from their wives because they will be called all sorts of names, Nakamhela said.
“Male survivors are running to the church nowadays and we must embrace them instead of isolating them,” he added.
In 2014 Government roped in the church and held a national day of prayer against GBV in Windhoek, but the scourge of GBV continues unabatedly.GBV survivor Lelanie Basson shared her story, saying at one point the abuse she had to endure from her husband was so severe she had to flee the country.
She narrated how he would attack her once he takes drugs and alcohol.
The abuse, according to Basson, was so brutal she eventually was left with no choice but to obtain a protection order against her abusive partner.
“One day I bought him a toolbox as a gift for our anniversary, but little did I know that toolbox would be used as a tool to abuse me,” she said.
In May this year media reports revealed that about 50 000 crimes related to gender-based violence (GBV) were reported over the past three years, with the Khomas region being the ‘capital’ of such crime.
The 50 000 figure is equivalent to about 45 GBV-related crimes being committed in Namibia every day for the period 2012 to 2015.
A breakdown of the statistics show that there were 22 174 (about 20 cases/day) assaults with the intention to cause grievous bodily harm, 18 054 common assaults (about 16 cases a day), 2 839 rapes (about three a day), 1 138 attempted murders (about one per day) and 734 murders (about one every two days) – all related to GBV.
Khomas topped the list of most-affected regions when it came to GBV-related assaults (followed by Oshana and //Karas), rape (followed by Oshikoto and Ohangwena) and murder (followed by Otjozondjupa, with Oshikoto and Erongo tied in third place). Hardap also featured in the list for assault, with Otjozondjupa and Hardap featuring on the list for rape and Omusati featuring on the list for murder.
The police have 17 GBV units across the country.
The minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka called on all Namibians to work together in a coordinated manner at all time, and make Namibia a home of peace for men and women, boys and girls.
In her address at the same occasion, Sioka pointed out that her ministry has assumed the plan of action and taken an integrated approach to the service delivery in the fight against GBV. In addition the integrated approach has started various programs including gender sensitization, training of key service providers on GBV laws and trafficking in persons.
She lists the social dominance of men, women’s financial dependence on men and how the general social acceptance of violence against women as still high and holds them accountable as the reason for the many challenges that they[women] face.
According to Sioka, general social acceptance of violence against women is still high.
The Namibia Demographic and Health Survey of 2006 and 2007 indicate that forty one percent (41%) of men and thirty five percent (35%) of women believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife in certain circumstances.
Sioka said that such social attitudes encourage perpetrators and hinder efforts to prevent and redress the problem. “Some aspects of traditional culture can represent a significant hurdle to eliminating GBV. At the same time, Namibian women are often socialized to believe that they are inferior to men and the male authority figures are justified in ‘disciplining’ them” she said.
“Yet as common as gender-based violence is, there is a culture of shame that keeps most people silent about it. To end the scourge of gender-based violence, we must stop the silence. And this is not just in the community but also in the church,” stated Sioka.