Namibia: Domestic violence, including protection, services and recourse available to victims (2007 - August 2010)
|Publisher||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Publication Date||10 August 2010|
|Citation / Document Symbol||NAM103488.E|
|Cite as||Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Namibia: Domestic violence, including protection, services and recourse available to victims (2007 - August 2010), 10 August 2010, NAM103488.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e437a202.html [accessed 14 March 2014]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
The United States (US) Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009 indicates that domestic violence is against the law in Namibia; however, it is widespread (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6). A 2009 Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency article references a report released by the Namibian police in 2008 that indicates that there were more than 12,500 cases of gender-based violence reported in 2007 (30 Mar. 2009).
The Combating of Domestic Violence Act came into force on 17 November 2003 (LAC n.d.b). It defines domestic violence as engaging in: physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, entering the residence or property of a complainant, emotional, verbal or psychological abuse (Namibia 2003, Art. 2). The Act explains how to apply for a protection order, and also lists the terms of protection orders in Article 14 (1) and (2) (ibid., Art. 14). Article 14 states that
14. (1) A protection order must include a provision restraining the respondent from subjecting the complainant to domestic violence.
(2) A protection order may, at the request of the applicant or on the court's own motion, include any of the following provisions-
(a) a provision requiring the respondent to surrender any firearm or other specified weapon
(b) "no contact" provisions
(c) If an act of physical violence has been committed, a provision granting the complainant and dependants of the complainant exclusive occupation of a joint residence
(d) a provision directing the respondent to-
(i) pay rent for the complainant by a specified date of each month in respect of a residence; or
(ii) otherwise make arrangements for any other accommodation or shelter
(e) a provision directing a police officer to accompany, within a specified time, the complainant or another person designated by the complainant, to the joint residence to supervise the removal of personal belongings of the complainant or any child or other person in the care of the complainant;
(f) a provision granting either party possession of specified personal property
(g) a provision restraining the complainant or the respondent or both from taking, converting, damaging or otherwise dealing in property in which the other party may have an interest or a reasonable expectation of use;
(h) a provision temporarily directing the respondent to make periodic payments in respect of maintenance of the complainant, and of any child of the complainant, if the respondent is legally liable to support the complainant or the child, as an emergency measure where no such maintenance order is already in force;
(i) a provision granting temporary sole custody-
(i) of a child of the complainant to any appropriate custodian other than the respondent; or
(ii) of any child of the complainant or any child in the care of a complainant to the complainant or to another appropriate custodian;
(j) a provision temporarily-
(i) forbidding all contact between the respondent and any child of the complainant;
(ii) specifying that contact between the respondent and a child of the complainant, must take place only in the presence and under the supervision of a social worker or a family member designated by the court for this purpose; or
(iii) allowing such contact only under specified conditions designed to ensure the safety of the complainant, any child who may be affected, and any other family members
(k) any other provisions that the court deems reasonably necessary to ensure the safety of the complainant or any child or other person who is affected. (ibid.)
The Combating of Domestic Violence Act, 2003 also provides alternatives to laying criminal charges against perpetrators (LAC n.d.b). According to the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), an organization which aims to protect the human rights of all Namibians (LAC n.d.a), the Act has established free and simple procedures to apply for a protection order from a magistrate's court (ibid. n.d.b). A protection order is defined as a court order directing the abuser to stop the violence and can also prohibit the abuser from having any contact with the victim (ibid.). The order can also require the abuser to leave the home in cases of physical abuse (ibid.).
The Combating of Rape Act, No. 8 of 2000, states in Article 2, subsection 3 that "No marriage or other relationship shall constitute a defence to a charge of rape under this Act" (Namibia 2000, Art. 2). Country Reports 2009 reports that the law "allows for the prosecution of spousal rape" (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6). The report states that
[n]umerous cases were prosecuted [in 2009], 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 2008, 11,611 cases of gender-based violence were reported, 940 of which involved rape. (US 11 Mar. 2010, Sec. 6)
Emergency support and protection services
The Women and Child Protection Unit (WCPU), created by the Namibian police (NAMPOL), was formed in order to provide services to victims of violence and various forms of abuse, including domestic violence (LAC 2005, 49). WCPU has seven units country wide and is responsible for all of the necessary arrangements, and for the supervision and care of the victims of such offences (Namibia n.d.). The following services are available through the WCPU 24 hours a day:
- provide police protection;
- offer a sympathetic ear to traumatised victims of rape, battering and other forms of assault;
- provide temporary shelter for victims in dire need of protection;
- counsel, advise and refer victims to other agencies as deemed necessary, such as the State hospital, the Directorate of Social Services in the Ministry of Health & Social Services, & the Legal Assistance Centre;
- assist with arresting and prosecuting perpetrators;
- respond to general inquiries on child maintenance, child abuse and neglect, other problems involving children, problems related to alcohol and drug abuse, and other domestic problems. (LAC 2005, 49)
WCPU's duties and responsibilities among other things include establishing whether or not a crime has been committed, obtaining first information of the crime, scheduling medical examinations and submiting rape kits to the National Forensic Science Laboratory (Namibia n.d.).
Shelters and places of safety
In 21 June 2010 correspondence with the Research Directorate, the Public Outreach Manager of the Gender Research & Advocy Project (GR&AP), a project of the LAC which aims to promote the empowerment of women and gender equality through law reform (LAC n.d.c), stated that the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (MGECW) was beginning to build shelters (LAC 21 June 2010). She also reported that the LAC believes that there are seven shelters in development, with an aim to provide one in each region (ibid.). In addition to these shelters, there are other grassroots organizations in Namibia that operate shelters and provide other services for victims (ibid.).
In addition, the Public Outreach Manager at the LAC reported that the organization's 2005 Namibia Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Service Directory (NDVSAD) provides an extensive list of shelters and services provided available to women in Namibia (ibid.). The directory identifies the following shelters able to support victims of domestic abuse: Friendly Haven Shelter (LAC 2005, 56); Ecumenical Social Diaconic (ibid., 56); the Helping Hand Welfare Organisation (ibid., 57) and the Tsumeb Women's and Children's Centre (ibid., 67). The directory also provides extensive information on shelter locations, services provided as well as contact information including phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and contact names (LAC 2005).
The LAC provides advice and legal information on human rights issues such as gender equality as well as on "rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, inheritance, marriage, divorce and maintenance" (LAC n.d.a).
The directory lists two non-govermental organizations (NGOs) providing services to victims of domestic abuse: the Stop the Violence Women's Group (LAC 2005, 85) and Women's Solidarity Namibia (WSN) (ibid., 92). The Stop the Violence Women's Group is a support group made up of women and children who are or were victims of domestic abuse (ibid., 85). The group meets regularly and aims to improve the development of women within the community (ibid.). WSN, the first organization to work on domestic violence issues in Namibia, provides 24 hour shelter, as well as support services, and counselling to women and children who are survivors of violence (ibid., 92).
The GR&AP's 2008 annual report states that although The Combating of Domestic Violence Act, 2003 is "an excellent piece of legislation," the centre has received reports that applicants for protection orders in urgent cases have experienced long delays and are sometimes turned away (LAC 2008, 11). Protection orders are sometimes not granted by magistrates because they do not receive all necessary application information, sometimes because applicants do not get assistance in filling out forms (ibid.). The same report indicates that protection is sometimes not granted to those who need it the most and that orders do not always suit each situation (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency. 30 March 2009. Moses Magadza. "Namibia: Gender Legislation Futile If Not Implemented."
Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) [Namibia, Windhoek]. 21 June 2010. Correspondence from the Public Outreach Manager of the Gender Research and Advocacy Project.
_____. 2008. Gender Research & Advocacy Project (GR&AP). 2008 Annual Report.
_____. 2005. Namibia Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Service Directory.
_____. N.d.a. "About Us."
_____. N.d.b. "Domestic Violence: Gender Research & Advocacy Project."
_____. N.d.c. "Gender Research & Advocacy Project."
Namibia. 2003. "Combating of Domestic Violence Act." The Government Gazette of the Republic of Namibia.
_____. 2000. Combating of Rape Act, No. 8 of 2000.
_____. N.d. Namibian Police. "Women and Child Protection Unit."
United States (US). 11 March 2010. Department of State. "Namibia." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2009.
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: Attempts to contact representatives from Minority Rights Group International (MRG), PEACEBUILD, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, the Friendly Haven shelter, the Institute of Women Studies at the University of Ottawa, the Pauline Jewett Institute of Women's and Gender Studies from Carleton University, and People's Education Assistance and Counselling for Empowerment (PEACE) were unsuccessful.
Internet sites, including: AllAfrica, Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID), Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, UN-Division for the Advancement of Women, Human Rights Watch, International Crisis Group-Africa Program, International Information Centre and Archives for the Women's Movement, Namibia-Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, National Society for Human Rights, Sister Namibia.