Rape and Domestic Violence: The law defines rape in broad terms and allows for the prosecution of spousal rape. The courts tried numerous cases of rape during the year, and the government generally enforced court sentences providing between five and 45 years’ imprisonment for those convicted. Between January and July 2015, police received reports of 565 rapes. Women’s groups and NGOs believed the actual prevalence of rape was higher, with only a small fraction of cases prosecuted and fewer still resulting in conviction. Factors hampering rape prosecutions included limited police capacity and the withdrawal of allegations by alleged victims after the filing of charges, often because the victims either receive compensation from the accused; succumb to family pressure, shame, or threats; or become discouraged at the length of time involved in prosecuting a case.
Traditional authorities may adjudicate civil claims for compensation in cases of rape, but criminal trials for rape are held in criminal courts.
The government and media focused national attention on gender-based violence (GBV). Between January and August 2015, police reported 39 GBV cases resulting in death. The president and former presidents spoke publicly against GBV.
The law prohibits domestic violence, but the problem was widespread. Penalties for conviction of domestic violence--including physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, and serious emotional, verbal, or psychological abuse--range from a fine of N$300 ($21) for simple offenses to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The law provides for the issuance of protection orders in cases of domestic violence and specifies that certain crimes of violence--including murder, rape, and assault--be handled differently if the crimes take place within a domestic relationship. When authorities received reports of domestic violence, Gender-based Violence Protection Units intervened.
There were 15 Gender-based Violence Protection Units (formerly called women and child protection units) staffed with police officers, social workers, legal advisors, and medical personnel trained to assist victims of sexual assault. The Ministries of Justice, Health and Social Services, and Gender Equality and Child Welfare, along with NGOs, provided training to some members of these units. Some magistrate courts provided special courtrooms with a cubicle constructed of one-way glass and child-friendly waiting rooms to protect vulnerable witnesses from open testimony. A privately run shelter for victims of GBV violence in the Khomas region operated effectively. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare owned shelters in the other regions. Due to staffing and funding shortfalls, however, the shelters housing victims operated only on an as-needed basis with social workers coordinating with volunteers to place victims in shelters and assist them with food and other services.
Sexual Harassment: The law explicitly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees who leave their jobs due to sexual harassment may be entitled to legal “remedies available to an employee who has been unfairly dismissed.” Employees rarely filed sexual harassment claims, and thus the law against sexual harassment was not frequently enforced.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. There are no government restrictions on the provision of contraceptives except to children under age 14, the legal age of consent for medical treatment (parental consent would be required for a younger child), and 50 percent of women used a modern contraceptive method. Women who lived in urban areas had better access to skilled attendance during childbirth and postpartum care than those in rural areas. The country’s 2014 Demographic and Health Survey reported the 2013 maternal mortality ratio was 385 per 100,000 live births. General lack of access to effective health care in treating eclampsia, hemorrhage, and obstructed or prolonged labor contributed to maternal mortality. HIV/AIDS was the leading indirect cause of maternal mortality, linked to almost 4.3 percent of maternal deaths.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based discrimination, including employment discrimination. Women nonetheless experienced discrimination in such areas as access to credit, salary level, owning and managing businesses, education, and housing (see section 7.d.). The law prohibits discriminatory practices against women married under civil law, but women married under customary law face legal and cultural discrimination. The constitution forbids discrimination on the basis of gender, and the law generally provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, with three exceptions: firstly, some elements of customary family law provide for different treatment of women, such as providing different grounds for divorce and different divorce procedures; secondly, the law governing marital property is based solely on the domicile of the husband at the time of the marriage; and thirdly, the law grants maternity leave to mothers but not paternity leave to fathers. The law protects a widow’s right to remain on the land of her deceased husband, even if she remarries. Traditional practices in certain northern regions, however, continued to permit family members to confiscate the property of deceased men from their widows and children; NGOs and activists continued to work to decrease the prevalence of this practice. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is responsible for advocating for women’s rights.