Rape and Domestic Violence: The law defines rape in broad terms and allows for the prosecution of spousal rape. Numerous cases of rape were prosecuted during the year, and the government generally enforced rape penalties, which provide for sentences of between five and 45 years’ imprisonment for convicted rapists. According to police statistics for 2010, 11,854 cases of gender-based violence were reported, 3,074 of which involved rape (a 294 percent increase from 2009). The true extent of rape is thought to be higher, and only a minority of cases were prosecuted or resulted in a conviction.
In 2009 LAC reported more than one-third of rape victims withdrew their cases, due to compensation from the accused, family pressure, shame, threats, or the length of time involved in prosecuting a case. A number of factors continued to hamper rape prosecutions, including lack of police transport, poor communication between police stations, lack of expertise in dealing with child rape complainants, and the withdrawal of cases by rape complainants after they filed charges. LAC argued additional training and raising awareness was required at all levels, and across all involved government ministries to better address child rape cases.
According to a 2008 LAC study, approximately 70 percent of rape suspects are arrested, but only 18 percent ultimately are convicted in a court of law. Most cases are tried by traditional authorities, rather than in government courts. A January article in the Namibian Law Journal complained that judges are applying “inconsistent and problematic” approaches to sentencing rape perpetrators.
The law prohibits domestic violence; however, the problem was widespread. Penalties for domestic violence, which includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, and serious emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, ranged from a fine of 300 Namibian dollars ($37) to10 years’ imprisonment and a fine for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. No information was available on enforcement of the law, except as it involved rape. When reported, the woman and child protection unit of the Namibian Police intervened in domestic violence cases.
There were 15 women’s and children’s shelters staffed with police officers trained to assist victims of sexual assault. During the year, the People’s Education, Assistance, and Counseling for Empowerment Center and other NGOs continued to provide training to these units. In some magistrates’ courts, there were special courtrooms to protect vulnerable witnesses from open testimony; the courtrooms featured a cubicle made of one-way glass and child-friendly waiting rooms. During the year the government completed renovation of five shelters for victims of gender-based violence.
Sexual Harassment: The labor act explicitly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace and requires employers to take reasonable steps to protect employees from such harassment. Employees who leave their jobs due to sexual harassment are entitled to reinstatement or compensation. No sexual harassment case has ever been filed.
Sex Tourism: Neither the government nor civil society keeps statistics on sex tourism, although there is anecdotal evidence that a small amount of it exists. However, sexual exploitation, including the sexual exploitation of children, does exist.
Reproductive Rights: There were no government restrictions on contraception, but abortion remained illegal. The government and NGOs provided for equitable access to contraception to all citizens, although those who lived in urban areas had better access to skilled attendance during childbirth and postpartum care than those who lived in rural areas. According to statistics released in 2010 by the Ministry of Health and Social Services, the country’s maternal mortality ratio in 2006 was 449 per 100,000 live births, a near doubling of the rate in 1992; the high rate was attributed to the general lack of access to effective healthcare. UNICEF reported that unsafe abortions account for nearly 20 percent of maternal deaths. The government and NGOs continued to make a strong effort to educate men and women equally in the diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
The government has no policy to forcibly sterilize HIV-positive women. However, a 2008 case against the government, in which doctors at state hospitals allegedly sterilized 16 women following caesarean sections, was still awaiting judgment at year’s end. Attorneys for the government claimed the women gave written consent to be sterilized before the procedures were carried out. The plaintiffs, who admit signing consent forms, charged that they were not properly informed of the consequences.
Discrimination: The law prohibits discrimination, including employment discrimination; however, men dominated positions in upper management in both the private and the public sectors. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and the Employment Equity Commission, which report to the minister of labor, were responsible for addressing complaints of discrimination in employment; however, neither was effective due to the backlog of cases.
The law prohibits discriminatory practices against women married under civil law, but women who married under customary law continued to face legal and cultural discrimination. Traditional practices that permitted family members to confiscate the property of deceased men from their widows and children continued.
The custom by which a widow or widower was obliged to marry the brother or sister of the deceased to ensure that the surviving spouse and children were cared for was still practiced in some areas of the country. A Namibia Law Journal report from January found that the practice of widow inheritance (levirate) and widower inheritance (sororate) were still common among the Ovambo, Herero, Lozi, and to a lesser extent, the Kavango.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare was responsible for advocating for women’s rights. The Ministry of Justice’s Law Reform and Development Commission advocated for women’s rights in legislation.