Rape and Domestic Violence: The law defines rape in broad terms and allows for the prosecution of spousal rape. The courts heard numerous prosecutions for rape during the year, and the government generally enforced penalties providing between five and 45 years’ imprisonment for those convicted. Government officials reported an increase in the number of reported rapes from 1,085 in 2011 to 1,119 in 2012, the latest year for which information was available. 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 a conviction.
The LAC’s statistics indicated that more than one-third of rape victims withdrew their court cases due to receiving compensation from the accused, succumbing to family pressure, shame, or threats, or discouragement at the length of time involved in prosecuting a case. Factors hampering rape prosecutions included lack of police transport, poor communication between police stations, lack of expertise in dealing with child rape complainants, and the withdrawal of allegations by alleged victims after the filing of charges.
According to LAC statistics, police arrested suspects in approximately 70 percent of reported rape cases; a court of law convicted only 18 percent of these arrested suspects. Most cases are heard by traditional authorities rather than in government courts. A 2011 article in the Namibian Law Journal complained that judges were applying “inconsistent and problematic” approaches to sentencing rapists, a critique that continued to be made.
Gender-based violence received national attention by the government and in the media during the year. Police reported more than 40 women were killed by men in the first half of the year. On March 6, President Pohamba led a national day of prayer against gender-based violence to highlight the problem. The cabinet held a special session to review the issue, and the president issued 14 directives to government ministries to coordinate their response to gender-based violence. In June the Prime Minister’s Office organized the second national conference on gender-based violence.
The government, NGOs, and civil society partners continued to implement the 2012-16 action plan of zero tolerance for gender-based violence and human trafficking.
The law prohibits domestic violence, but 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, range from a fine of N$300 ($27) for simple offenses to 10 years’ imprisonment and a fine for assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. NamPol does not collect separate crime data on domestic violence.
No official information was available on enforcement of the antidomestic violence law except as it involved rape. 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--should be handled differently if the crimes take place within a domestic relationship. When domestic violence cases were reported to authorities, women and child protection units intervened.
There were 15 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, continued to provide training to these units. Some magistrate courts provided special courtrooms to protect vulnerable witnesses from open testimony; the courtrooms featured a cubicle constructed of one-way glass and child-friendly waiting rooms. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare funded a shelter for victims of gender-based violence in the Khomas region and provided grants to support privately run shelters in the regions of Kavango, Ohangwena, Omusati, Kunene, Karas, Zambezi, and Otjozondjupa.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): No law specifically prohibits FGM/C for women or girls. During the year there were no reports of FGM/C of women age 18 or older.
Sexual Harassment: The law explicitly prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace. Employees who leave their jobs due to sexual harassment may be entitled under the law to “remedies available to an employee who has been unfairly dismissed.”
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide freely and responsibly the number, spacing, and timing of their children; to have the information and means to do so; and to attain the highest standard of reproductive health, free from discrimination, coercion, and violence. There are no government restrictions on the provision of contraceptives except to children under 18, the legal age of consent for medical treatment. Women 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 2013 by the UN Population Fund, the country’s maternal mortality ratio in 2013 was 130 per 100,000 live births, a decrease from 200 per 100,000 live births in 2010. 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 14 percent of maternal deaths. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported that unsafe abortions accounted for nearly 20 percent of maternal deaths.
Dozens of women with HIV were subjected to forced or coerced sterilization at public hospitals throughout the country in recent years. In November the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that three women with HIV did not give their informed consent for sterilization and were entitled to compensation. The Supreme Court ruled, however, there was no evidence the government sterilized the women because they were HIV positive.
Discrimination: The law prohibits gender-based discrimination, including employment discrimination (see section 7.d.). Women nonetheless experienced discrimination in such areas as credit, pay, owning and managing businesses, education, and housing. The law prohibits discriminatory practices against women married under civil law, but women who are married under customary law continued to face legal and cultural discrimination. Traditional practices continued that permit family members to confiscate the property of deceased men from their widows and children.
The custom by which a widow or widower marries the brother or sister of a deceased to ensure that the surviving spouse and children are cared for is practiced in some areas of the country. Anecdotal evidence suggested that the prevalence of these practices had decreased in recent years, however, and during the year occurred mostly with the consent of both parties.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare is responsible for advocating women’s rights. The Ministry of Justice’s Law Reform and Development Commission advocated for women’s rights in legislation.