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TACKLING VIOLENCE: A TIMELINE

GENDER RESEARCH & ADVOCACY PROJECT

banner on domeetic violence

THE COMBATING OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT
The Combating of Domestic Violence Bill introduced into Parliament in October 2002 was based on proposals initially put forward by GR&AP. GR&AP shared information about the bill and lobbying strategies at various forums with NGOs, such as the Multi-Media Campaign on Violence Against Women and Children, Namibian Women's Voice, and also with both majority party and opposition MPs.

In February 2003, GR&AP worked together with a range of civil society groups to plan a demonstration on the domestic violence bill to coincide with the opening of Parliament. The government efforts to obstruct this demonstration and the resulting urgent application in the High Court actually resulted in increased publicity for the bill, even though the application to remove the restrictions imposed by the police was unsuccessful. Simultaneous demonstrations organized by grassroots-based NGOs were held nationwide. In the weeks that followed, GR&AP provided background briefings to interested groups to assist them with independent lobbying efforts.

GR&AP studied the amendments which were made to the Bill by the National Assembly and mobilised an NGO response. Joint representations opposing one amendment were made to the National Council, but were unsuccessful. However, the GR&AP still considers the bill which was passed a victory, as it remains substantially in the form promoted by the NGO community.

Once the bill passed, GR&AP assisted the Ministry of Justice with the drafting of regulations and forms to accompany the Act, placing particular emphasis on the need for simple, user-friendly forms. The Act came into force on 17 November 2003.

Since then, GR&AP has focused on training and awareness raising around the new law. For example, domestic violence has been a key topic at community workshops and on radio programmes aimed at the general public. GR&AP regularly trains professionals and service providers such as police officers and social workers on the new law, and we have also produced a training video on domestic violence for clerks of court.

Read our Guide to the Combating of Domestic Violence Act for more information about the law. The Guide is also available in Afrikaans, Oshiwambo, Otjiherero and Khoe-khoewab.

OVERVIEW OF THE COMBATING OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ACT
The law covers a range of forms of domestic violence, including sexual violence, harassment, intimidation, economic violence and psychological violence. It covers violence between husbands and wives, parents and children, boyfriends and girlfriends and between family members. The law gives those who have suffered violence alternatives to laying criminal charges, by setting up a simple, free procedure for getting a protection order from a magistrate's court. A protection order is a court order directing the abuser to stop the violence. It can also prohibit the abuser from having any contact with the victim. In cases of physical violence, it can even order the abuser to leave the common home. It is possible for people who have suffered domestic violence to seek a protection order and lay a criminal charge at the same time if they wish. There are social provisions to protect the privacy of a complainant who lays a charge, and provisions which will make the court process less traumatic.

Since 1998, GR&AP has focused on the epidemic of domestic violence in Namibia. Here is a sample of its activities over the years:

1998: GR&AP produced a comparative law research paper entitled Domestic Violence: Proposals for Law Reform and a draft bill on domestic violence at the request of the Law Reform and Development Commission. Read articles from our archive (1998): Domestic violence in Namibia; Domestic violence - how society can help; The problem of spousal abuse

1999: GR&AP produced the first edition of the Namibia Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Service Directory containing information on all the organizations in Namibia which assist survivors of domestic violence. Read an article from our archive: Using the law to help women fight poverty and violence

2000: GR&AP worked together with the Legal Education Unit of the Legal Assistance Centre in 2000 to host a national conference for men on the topic of violence against women. This workshop was attended by 250 men from virtually all parts of Namibia, as well as by guest speakers from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Canada. The conference was successful in inspiring men in the various regions to begin work around the issue of violence against women, and it led to the formation of a national men's organization called Namibian Men for Change (NAMEC). Read the conference report. Read an article from our archive: Organising men against violence against women

2000: GR&AP wrote a series of newspaper articles to popularize the findings of its research and hosted a workshop entitled "Domestic Violence Legislation: Lessons from South Africa" which brought experts from South Africa to Namibia to discuss success and failures with law reform on this topic which could be instructive to Namibia. Read articles from our archive: When violence hits home- domestic violence cases in Namibia; The men against violence against women movement in Namibia

2001: The Law Reform & Development Commission (LRDC) published a draft bill on domestic violence. The report of the LRDC openly acknowledged the contribution of GR&AP in the preparation of this bill, as well as the usefulness of some of its other work around violence.

2001: GR&AP launched a Domestic Violence Advocacy Campaign with several components. (1) Love and Respect, a series of five films on domestic violence in English, Afrikaans, Nama-Damara, Oshiwambo and Otjiherero; (2) a series of radio dramas on domestic violence in Afrikaans, Oshiwambo, Herero and Nama/Damara; (3) a website design contest where domestic violence was the content of the sites, involving some 32 schools around the country; and (4) murals about domestic violence painted by schoolchildren on public buildings in six locations in different parts of the country.

Read an article from our archive (2002): The Combating of Domestic Violence Bill - Why We Need It Now.

2004-5: GR&AP worked with service providers to produce Guidelines on the Implementation of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act for police, social workers and counsellors, the medical profession, prosecutors, and magistrates. GR&AP also produced an updated version of the Namibia Domestic Violence and Sexual Abuse Service Directory.

2005: GR&AP completed educational materials on the Combating of Domestic Violence Act in English, in the same format as the popular materials on rape: a detailed Guide to the Combating of Domestic Violence Act aimed at services providers and counselors, as well as a shorter Summary of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act for the general public.

2006: The educational materials on domestic violence were translated into indigenous languages and disseminated widely through government and NGO networks and in workshops.

2007: The Ministry of Health and Social Services commissioned GR&AP to work together with two other local groups, PEACE Centre and Women’s Solidarity, to develop a training manual for community survivor supporters.

2008: GR&AP produced a short pamphlet and factsheet on domestic violence in English (pamphlet, factsheet), Oshiwambo (pamphlet, factsheet), Otjiherero (pamphlet, factsheet) and Afrikaans (pamphlet, factsheet). GR&AP also produced a magazine-style publication entitled Addressing Gender-based Violence through Community Empowerment in English, Oshiwambo, Otjiherero and Afrikaans.

2009: GR&AP finalised data collection for a report that will assess the effectiveness of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act. GR&AP also produced a comic on how to claim a protection order in English, Afrikaans and Oshiwambo, and assisted government with formulating legal provisions addressing child abuse and neglect in the home environment for a draft Child Care and Protection Act expected to go to Parliament in 2011.

2010: GR&AP continued to conduct research on the implementation of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act. As part of our research into the operation of the Act, The Namibian newspaper placed adverts free of charge requesting people to participate in interviews about applying for an interim protection order. We received a good response to the adverts.

2012: Our report Seeking Safety, a study on the application of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act, with a view to assessing whether the law is serving its intended purpose effectively, is released.

2013: Production of circulars based on information from Seeking Safety: protecting children affected by domestic violence and domestic violence and HIV

2014: Roadshow to magistrates courts to discuss the findings in our report Seeking Safety and discussions on practical solutions to the challenges faced by the court


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