GENDER RESEARCH & ADVOCACY PROJECT
The Gender Research & Advocacy Project seeks to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women through legal research, law reform and related advocacy work.
The following are the key goals of the project:
- To conduct research aimed at assessing the effectiveness of existing laws in serving the needs of women and men and making proposals for new laws where necessary
- To encourage and facilitate law reform
- To increase public involvement in the law reform process
- To raise public awareness of new and existing laws and the underlying issues they address
- To provide training materials and training of trainers for key service providers involved in the implementation of gender-related laws
- To ensure that gender concerns are incorporated into programmes aimed at good governance and improved social welfare
- Approximately 1100 cases of rape or attempted rape are reported each year – representing approximately 60 rapes per 100 000 people. A study by LAC conducted in 2006 found that the vast majority of rapes in Namibia – at least 67% – involve persons known to the victim. Most shockingly, about one-fourth (25%) of the rapes in the large sample examined for the study involved family members, spouses or intimate partners (including past partners).
- The three most common reasons for withdrawing a rape case are compensation, family pressure and shame, according to a follow-up study by LAC published in 2009.
- One out of three women in Namibia have suffered violence from an intimate partner. Namibian women are significantly more likely than men to suffer from gender-based violence (41% v 28%), and married women are more likely to suffer from physical violence than single women (41% v 30%) (Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Knowledge, attitudes and practices study on factors and traditional practices that may perpetuate or protect Namibians from gender based violence and discrimination, 2009.)
- More than one-third of Namibian men (35%) feel that wife-beating is justifiable for one or more reasons (Ministry of Health and Social Services, Namibian Demographic and Health Survey 2006-07).
It has been noted time and time again that the Namibian Constitution provides a strong backdrop for sexual equality. But the Constitutional guarantees of sexual equality do not work automatically. For purposes of continuity and clarity, all laws in force at the date of independence remain in force until they are explicitly repealed or amended by Parliament, or declared unconstitutional by a competent court. This means that Namibia still has some laws in force that do not provide for gender equality.
Likewise, Namibia is frequently applauded for being a signatory to the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child with no reservations – a wholehearted degree of commitment which is rare amongst the countries of the world.
But the provision of the Constitution which makes these conventions part of our domestic law remains untested. This leaves the provisions of the Namibian Constitution and the UN Conventions largely statements of aspiration, rather than principles which govern the daily lives of Namibians in any practical sense. Law reform on gender issues is vital in bridging the gap between principles and reality.
The 20 years since independence have seen a number of significant legal developments for women. Affirmative action provisions in the Local Authorities Act have resulted in strong representation for women at the local level, and the Affirmative Action (Employment) Act is seeking to improve the representation of women in the formal workforce.
Labour legislation, including both the Labour Act and the Social Security Act, have addressed gender issues such as maternity protection and sexual harassment. There is a new legal framework for violence against women and children which includes the Combating of Rape Act, the Combating of Domestic Violence Act and amendments to the Criminal Procedure Act designed to protect vulnerable witnesses.
Family law reforms have been more limited -- the Married Persons Equality Act dealing with certain aspects of inequality between husbands and wives, the Communal Land Reform Act which provides for secure land tenure for widows and the Maintenance Act which is intended to advance women’s economic independence through a more workable system for obtaining child maintenance.
There is much work still to be done in this field including law reform on customary marriage, civil and customary divorce, marital property, inheritance and cohabitation.
For more information about the progress Namibia has made since Independence see the paper presented by Dianne Hubbard for the government's 20th anniversary celebrations.