Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape of men and women, including spousal rape. The law defines rape as the commission of any sexual act under coercive circumstances. The courts tried numerous cases of rape during the year, and the government generally enforced court sentences that ranged between five and 45 years’ imprisonment. Factors hampering rape prosecutions included limited police capacity and the withdrawal of allegations by victims after filing charges. Victims often withdrew charges because they received compensation from the accused; succumbed to family pressure, shame, or threats; or became discouraged by 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 courts.
Gender-based violence, particularly domestic violence, was a widespread problem. The government and media focused national attention on gender-based violence. The president and former presidents spoke publicly against gender-based violence.
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 sentences of 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine, or both for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.
The law provides for procedural safeguards such as protection orders to protect victims of gender-based violence. When authorities received reports of domestic violence, gender-based violence protection units intervened. The gender-based violence units were staffed with police officers, social workers, legal advisors, and medical personnel trained to assist victims of sexual assault. Some magistrates’ courts provided special courtrooms with a cubicle constructed of one-way glass and child-friendly waiting rooms to protect vulnerable witnesses from open testimony. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare operated shelters; however, due to staffing and funding shortfalls, the shelters operated only on an as-needed basis with social workers coordinating with volunteers to place victims and provide them with food and other services. The Office of the First Lady actively promoted gender-based violence awareness and remedies in every region.
Sexual Harassment: The law explicitly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. By law employers must formulate a workplace sexual harassment policy, including defined remedies. Employees who leave their jobs due to sexual harassment may be entitled to legal “remedies available to an employee who has been unfairly dismissed.”
Coercion in Population Control: There were no reports of coerced abortion or involuntary sterilization. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Discrimination: Civil law prohibits gender-based discrimination, including employment discrimination. The government generally enforced the law effectively. Nevertheless, women experienced persistent discrimination in access to credit, salary level, owning and managing businesses, education, and housing. Some elements of customary family law provide for different treatment of women. Civil law grants maternity leave to mothers but not paternity leave to fathers. The law bases marital property solely on the domicile of the husband at the time of the marriage and sets grounds for divorce and divorce procedures differently for men and women. 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, permitted family members to confiscate the property of deceased men from their widows and children.
Birth Registration: The constitution provides for citizenship by birth within the country to a citizen parent or a foreign parent ordinarily resident in the country, or to those born outside the country to citizen parents.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was a serious problem, and authorities prosecuted crimes against children, particularly rape and incest. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare employed social workers throughout the country to address cases of child abuse. It conducted public awareness campaigns aimed at preventing child abuse and publicizing services available to victims.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits civil marriage for both boys and girls younger than age 18. For additional information, see Appendix C.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes child pornography, child prostitution, and the actions of both the client and pimp in cases of sexual exploitation of children younger than age 18. NGOs reported HIV/AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children engaged in prostitution without third-party involvement due to economic pressures.
The government enforced the law; perpetrators accused of sexual exploitation of children were routinely charged and prosecuted. The penalties for conviction of soliciting a child younger than age 16 for sex, or more generally for commercial sexual exploitation of a child (including through pornography), are a fine of up to N$40,000 ($2,750), up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. Penalties for conviction in cases involving children ages 16 and 17 are the same as for adults. The law makes special provisions to protect vulnerable witnesses, including individuals younger than age 18 or against whom a sexual offense has been committed.
An adult convicted of engaging in sexual relations with a child younger than age 16 in prostitution may be sentenced for up to 15 years’ imprisonment for a first offense and up to 45 years’ imprisonment for a repeat offense. Any person convicted of aiding and abetting trafficking in persons–including child prostitution–within the country or across the border is liable for a fine of up to N$ one million ($69,400) or up to 50 years’ imprisonment. Conviction of solicitation of a prostitute, living off the earnings of prostitution, or keeping a brothel carries penalties of N$40,000 ($2,750), 10 years’ imprisonment, or both.
The minimum legal age for consensual sex is 16. The penalty for conviction of statutory rape–sex with a child younger than 14 when the perpetrator is more than three years older than the victim–is a minimum of 15 years’ imprisonment if the victim is younger than 13 and a minimum of five years’ imprisonment if the victim is 13. There is no minimum penalty for conviction of sexual relations with a child between ages 14 and 16. Possession of or trade in child pornography is illegal. The government trained police officers in handling child sex abuse cases. Centers for abused women and children worked to reduce the trauma suffered by abused children.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: Media reported cases in which parents, usually young mothers, abandoned their newborns, sometimes leading to the newborn’s death. The government enforced prohibitions against this practice by investigating and prosecuting suspects.
International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/International-Parental-Child-Abduction/for-providers/legal-reports-and-data/reported-cases.html.
There was a small Jewish community of fewer than 100 persons in the country, most of whom lived in Windhoek. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at https://www.state.gov/trafficking-in-persons-report.
The constitution protects the rights of “all members of the human family,” which is interpreted by domestic legal experts to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination in any employment decision based on several factors, including any “degree of physical or mental disability.” It makes an exception in the case of a person with a disability unable to perform the duties or functions of the job in question. Enforcement in this area was ineffective, and societal discrimination persisted.
By law official action is required to investigate and punish those accused of committing violence or abuse against persons with disabilities; authorities did so effectively.
The government requires the construction of government buildings include ramps and other features facilitating access to persons with physical disabilities. The government, however, does not mandate retrofitting or other measures to provide such access to already constructed public buildings.
Children with disabilities attended mainstream schools. The law does not restrict the rights of persons with disabilities to vote and otherwise participate in civic affairs, but lack of access to public venues hindered the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in civic life.
The deputy minister of disability affairs in the Office of the Vice President is responsible for matters related to persons with disabilities and oversees the National Disability Council of Namibia. The council is responsible for coordinating the implementation of policies concerning persons with disabilities with government ministries and agencies.
Despite constitutional prohibitions, societal, racial, and ethnic discrimination persisted.
By law all traditional communities participate without discrimination in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and allocation of natural resources. Nevertheless, due to their nomadic lifestyle, the San, the country’s earliest known inhabitants, were unable to exercise these rights effectively because of minimal access to education, limited economic opportunities, and their relative isolation. Some San had difficulty obtaining a government identification card because they lacked birth certificates or other identification. Without a government-issued identification card, the San could not access government social programs or register to vote. A lack of access to police, prosecutors, and courts prevented San women from reporting and seeking protection from gender-based violence.
Indigenous lands were effectively demarcated but poorly managed. Many San community members lived on conservancy (communal) lands but were unable to prevent members of larger ethnic groups from using and exploiting those lands. Some San claimed regional officials failed to remove members of other ethnic groups from San lands.
The constitution does not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Although Roman-Dutch common law inherited at independence criminalizes sodomy, the ban was not enforced. The law defines sodomy as intentional anal sexual relations between men. This definition excludes anal sexual relations between heterosexual persons and sexual relations between lesbians. Many citizens considered same-sex sexual activity to be taboo.
Gender discrimination law does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons faced harassment when trying to access public services. There were isolated reports of transgender persons being harassed or assaulted. Some politicians opposed any legislation that would specifically protect the rights of LGBTI persons. The ombudsman favored abolition of the common law offense of sodomy. LGBTI groups conducted annual pride parades recognized by the government as constitutionally protected peaceful assembly.
Although the law prohibits discrimination based on HIV status, societal discrimination and stigmatization against persons with HIV remained problems. Some jobs in the civilian sector require a pre-employment test for HIV, but there were no reports of employment discrimination specifically based on HIV/AIDS status. According to the Namibian Employers’ Federation, discrimination based on HIV status was not a major problem in the workplace because most individuals were aware HIV is not transmissible via casual contact.