Since early October, hundreds of furious demonstrators – mainly younger women – have taken to the streets of Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, in protest against gender-based violence and femicide. Their action was triggered by a series of gruesome assaults on women and girls. Violent police responses only fuelled the outrage and led to continued public protests across several regions and towns.
A poster held aloft at a #ShutItAllDown demonstration in Windhoek in mid-October summarised the feelings of women under siege. Toxic masculinity, it seems, has torn apart a social fabric that would allow the protesting women to live without fear – if such a fabric ever existed.
As the Namibian writer and activist Martha Mukaiwa tweeted, “You stay, you’re abused. You leave, you get murdered. You go to the police, they victim blame, lose case docs or arrive too late. You protest, law enforcement harasses or arrests you. If this is not actual flaming hell. #OnsIsMoeg (we are tired).
The dramatic degree of femicide and gender-based violence in Namibia is evidence of what the French sociologist Émile Durkheim dubbed “social anomie”. Anomie characterises a collapse of moral and ethical values. A disbanded social contract (if it ever existed) leads to aggression and violence, often including self-destruction.
Suicide is a daily occurrence. Rates are among the highest in the world. As elsewhere, men are more likely to take their own lives. But cases include a growing number of young girls.
Intimate partner violence, euphemistically called “passion killing”, has increased too, mainly attributed to “low self-esteem among men, material dependence, poor coping mechanisms and failure to handle rejection”.
In a society where unemployment and impoverishment are on the rise – exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic – individual coping strategies are further eroded. The long-term legacies of apartheid add to the challenges. Contract labour separated families and contributed to multiple intimate relations. Institutionalised under German colonial rule in the early 1900s, it destroyed the social fabric with lasting effects.
Notably, gender relations within the anti-colonial struggle were also fraught with inequality. Namibia has undertaken a leading role with regards gender-balanced parliamentary representation. Close to half of the members in the National Assembly are women. A growing number of female ministers and deputy ministers have entered the current legislative period. But this has not translated into a progressive shift in gender politics. A comprehensive 2017 Gender Analysis by the local Legal Assistance Centre outlines the obstacles.
At 43.9%, female-headed households registered in 2013 were among the highest worldwide. They were lauded as the backbone of society by the leader of the country’s opposition in 2019. But reproductive rights remain limited. Abortion remains strictly regulated. Based on a 45-year-old law, termination of pregnancies is illegal, with few exceptions.
In other news – Video: Tears at Ginimbi’s accident scene as burnt bodies of Moana & other 2 are finally taken out of the Car
After a long tough time of police and helpers at Ginimbi‘s accident scene trying to open the door of the car in which the other three bodies were trapped when the car crashed, they have finally managed to open the door and are taking out the burnt bodies. Learn more