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.
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. A June 23 Supreme Court decision interpreted the meaning of the phrase “ordinarily resident” more broadly than the government’s preferred interpretation and ordered the government to issue a birth certificate to the child of Dutch parents living in the country on work permits. In response the government sought parliamentary approval of a bill forbidding issuance of the child’s birth certificate and imposing an interpretation of “ordinarily resident” that differed from the Supreme Court’s interpretation. In early August, in the face of public opposition and rejection of the bill by the National Council, the government dropped its opposition to the court decision and announced it would issue a birth certificate to the child.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, approximately 98 percent of citizens had a birth certificate or other identifying document. Parents who did not register their children at birth often faced a lengthy registration process.
The Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration, in partnership with the UN Children’s Fund, continued efforts to provide birth certificates for newborns at clinics and hospitals throughout the country, including through mobile registration vans and birth registration offices at 11 high-volume hospitals.
Child Abuse: Child abuse was a serious problem, and authorities prosecuted reported crimes against children, particularly rape and incest. One-third of reported rapes involved child victims. In 2012 (the latest year for which statistics were available) approximately 870 children and juveniles were reported killed, raped, or assaulted. Police reported six cases of incest perpetrated on children between January and July 2015. NGOs believed the true incidence of child abuse greatly exceeded the number of reported cases. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare employed social workers throughout the country to address cases of child abuse, and conducted public awareness campaigns aimed at preventing child abuse and publicizing services available to victims. The Ombudsman’s Office also continued a public campaign to educate children about their rights.
Early and Forced Marriage: The law prohibits civil marriages before age 18 for both boys and girls. The Child Care and Protection Act prohibits customary marriage before age 18.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law criminalizes child pornography, child prostitution, and the actions of both the client and the pimp in cases of sexual exploitation of children under age 18, but sexual exploitation of children occurred. NGOs that worked with persons in prostitution reported that in most cases children engaged in prostitution without third-party involvement due to economic pressures or as a means of survival among HIV/AIDS orphans and other vulnerable children. A 2013 study at a nonprofit center to assist persons in prostitution in Windhoek found the average age at which women at the center entered into prostitution was 15.4 years.
The penalties for conviction of soliciting a child under age 16 for sex, or more generally for commercial sexual exploitation of a child (including through pornography), is a fine of up to N$40,000 ($2,800), up to 10 years’ imprisonment, or both. Exposing a child to pornography is also illegal. 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 under age 18 or against whom a sexual offense has been committed.
An adult convicted of engaging in sexual relations with a child in prostitution under age 16 may be imprisoned for up to 15 years for a first offense and up to 45 years for a repeat offense. Any person who aids and abets trafficking in persons–including child prostitution–within the country or across the border is liable to a fine of up to one million Namibian dollars ($70,000) or imprisonment for up to 50 years. Conviction of solicitation of a prostitute, living off the earnings of prostitution, or keeping a brothel carries penalties of N$40,000 ($2,800), 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 under age 14 when the perpetrator is more than three years older than the victim–is a minimum of 15 years in prison when the victim is under 13 and a minimum of five years when 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 continued to train police officials in handling of child sex abuse cases. Centers for abused women and children worked to reduce the trauma suffered by abused children.
HIV/AIDS orphans (whose numbers declined during the year) remained vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation.
Infanticide or Infanticide of Children with Disabilities: The media continued to report cases in which parents, usually young mothers, abandoned newborns, sometimes leading to the newborns’ death. The government enforced prohibitions against this practice by investigating and prosecuting violators.
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 travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
There was a Jewish community of approximately 100 individuals, the majority of whose members lived in Windhoek. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The constitution protects the rights of “all members of the human family,” which domestic legal experts understand to prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities. The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical and mental disabilities in employment, health care, education, or the provision of other state services. The law prohibits discrimination in any employment decision based on a number of factors, including any “degree of physical or mental disability” (see section 7.d.). It makes an exception in the case of a person with a disability if that person is, because of disability, unable to perform the duties or functions of the job in question. Enforcement in this area was ineffective, and societal discrimination persisted.
The government requires all newly constructed government buildings be accessible and include ramps and other features facilitating access. The government, however, neither mandates access to already constructed public buildings generally nor requires retrofitting of government 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 infrastructure challenges at public venues hindered the ability of persons with disabilities to participate in civic life.
A deputy minister of disability affairs in the office of the vice president is responsible for matters related to persons with disabilities, including operation of the National Disability Council of Namibia. The council is responsible for overseeing concerns of persons with disabilities and coordinating implementation of policies on persons with disabilities with government ministries and agencies.
Despite constitutional prohibitions, societal, racial, and ethnic discrimination persisted.
Other ethnic groups have historically exploited the San, the country’s earliest known inhabitants. By law all traditional communities, including the San, participate without discrimination in decisions affecting their lands, cultures, traditions, and allocation of natural resources. The San, however, were unable to exercise these rights fully because of minimal access to education, limited economic opportunities, and their relative isolation. Teachers and nurses, when available, often did not speak any of the San languages. 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 police presence and courts prevented San women from reporting and seeking protection from GBV.
Indigenous lands were effectively demarcated but poorly managed. Many San tribes lived on conservancy (communal) lands but were unable to prevent the surrounding larger ethnic groups from using and exploiting those lands. Some San claimed regional officials refused to remove other ethnic groups from San lands.
Human rights NGOs, such as the Namibia San Council, Working Group of Indigenous Minorities in Southern Africa, LAC, and NamRights, helped San communities assert their basic human rights during the year.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
Although laws inherited at independence criminalize 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 couples and sexual relations between lesbians. Many citizens considered all same-sex sexual activity taboo, however. The prohibition against sexual discrimination in the constitution did not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) persons continued to face harassment when trying to access public services. Some politicians opposed any legislation that would specifically protect the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons. On August 23, the ombudsman publicly declared his support for the legalization of same-sex marriage and the abolition of the common law offense of sodomy.
HIV and AIDS Social Stigma
Societal discrimination against and stigmatization of persons with HIV/AIDS remained problems.
Potential military recruits were tested for HIV, and those found positive were unable to join, but persons who test positive for HIV while in the service received treatment and were allowed to stay in the military. Applicants seeking to join the police were tested for HIV. Those testing positive were given a second test to assess the progression of the disease, and candidates found to have healthy CD4 (white blood cell) counts were allowed to join. NamPol had HIV-positive officers on its force. 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.