Si necesitas información
sobre la violencia contra la mujer en este país puede dirigirte
Dianne Hubbard / Legal Assistance Centre
PO Box 604 Windhoek
tel: +264-61-264443 /fax: +264-61-234953 firstname.lastname@example.org
texto... también en Inglés sobre las últimas campañas
contra la violencia doméstica...
Os ofrecemos un texto en Inglés sobre la situación de la mujer en Namibia.... No hemos tenido tiempo de traducirlo... si alguien se anima a hacerlo y a enviarnos la traducción será muy bienvenida... Saludos desde Mujeres en Red
Homesteads thatched with golden Bushmen grass and surrounded by high stockades dot the northern landscape of Owamboland, Namibia. A donkey brays. Laughing children play in the dust. This is the primordial Africa of Alex Haley's "Roots." On the coast to the west, under the guardianship of a friendly lighthouse, the people of Swakopmund greet each other on Kaiserstrasse: "Wie gehts (How are you)?" "Gut danke und Ihnen (Fine, thanks, and you)?" We are in a time warp German seaside town whose architecture belongs to earlier this century and whose attitudes reflect the 1950s. Such images show Namibia as a demi-Eden, an independent realm now peaceful and happy after a quarter century of war against Apartheid, and for the human rights of all men and women.
But this vision of the country is deceptive. White may have stopped fighting black and open discrimination is gone -- the capital Windhoek is no longer a town peopled with Europeans transplanted onto the African savanna -- though it is noticeable that, like oil and water, the races mingle but do not mix. But within the family, the lion has not lain down with the lamb.
Apartheid regarding women
is alive and flourishing despite government legislation to the contrary.
Behind those log palisades and beneath the golden thatch, men are beating,
maiming and killing women. The high incidence of such violence was one
of the first things to strike me when I arrived in Namibia four years ago.
Newspapers often feature stories of women losing their sight, suffering
broken bones, going deaf, and even being killed by a husband or partner.
But most women hide their wounds
out of shame and the fear of humiliation by an unsympathetic, male-oriented police force.
According to a 1996 Youth
Development Programme survey, featured in New Era, a government owned newspaper,
50 percent of Namibian youth questioned said that "sometimes a boyfriend
has to hit a girlfriend to get what he wants," while 19 percent of sexually
young men surveyed admitted to having beaten a woman. A 1995 study sponsored
UNICEF found that 18 percent of urban women and nine percent of rural women had been raped.
As a result, Namibia recently won the dubious distinction of being chosen to participate in an ongoing World Health Organization (WHO) study of the high-rate of violence against women in seven countries.
Namibia, unlike many countries in southern Africa, has prepared both a Gender Policy and a Plan of Action as required by the Beijing Platform. A multimedia campaign about violence against women has been running here for a year now, raising public awareness, but there is still a strong feeling that domestic violence is not a serious crime.
In June 1997, Amanyanga,
a respectable-looking, 54-year-old, rather shrunken man said in mitigation
that he had not meant to beat his eight months pregnant wife, Appolonia,
to death with an axe handle, only "to beat her like all wives are beaten."
Appolonia, he said in defense, had become pregnant by one of his close
friends. In a significant, but isolated victory for women's activists,
Judge Bryan O'Linn stated that men should learn that such behavior was
unacceptable, and handed down a
It would be a mistake, however,
to conclude that such brutality is restricted to the homesteads of indigenous
Africans. This June, all Namibia was rocked by the horrendous murder of
32-year-old Monika Florin behind the white painted walls of seaside Swakopmund.
This was not a disciplinary beating gone wrong but a grisly house of horrors.
A failed entrepreneur and ex-chef, German national Thomas Florin, who has
pleaded not guilty, was about to be deported, but his Namibian wife refused
either to join him or to allow him to take away their two children. When Monika disappeared, suspicious friends initiated a search. They found a dismembered and cooked body.
Newspapers published pictures of the oven "on which her body was cooked" and saucepans "which may have been used in the cooking." Reporters also looked into her sexual history, which appears to have been pretty mild, but she was seen talking to male passersby from her door step at 10 p.m. and "surely some of these liaisons were not wholly innocent," as the Windhoek Observer stated. In short, the victim was blamed for her own murder. Though Thomas Florin's business acumen was called into question, I saw no mention of his possible relationships with other women.
After the murder, outraged,
black-clad women of all races throughout the country marched on their local
council offices demanding action to stop such violence. Politicians made
the right noises, saying that domestic violence was unacceptable, but did
nothing concrete. Women felt demeaned. The greatest insult came in Rehoboth,
where the male magistrate told the demonstrators to "F... off. This isn't
Swakopmund," and wouldn't bother meeting them since the incident hadn't
his town. However, a 20 year-old man was recently convicted in Rehoboth for raping a six-year-old child.
Although it does not tell the full story, the particularly brutal history of colonial Namibia has exacerbated the problem of violence against women. Colonial culture was built on the concept of control and violent punishment: Women were the most vulnerable citizens since both black and white men felt they could do as they pleased with them.
Polygamy has been virtually outlawed since the population was converted by the missionaries, a process which was completed in the first decades of this century. Except in very traditional areas, most men have only one wife, if they marry at all. Many, however, have long had several liaisons going on at the same time.
Under Apartheid, the infamous contract labour system took men away from their families to work for minuscule wages in the mines or on white farms for periods up to eighteen months. Loneliness and poverty led them to seek solace in alcohol and cheap sex with multiple partners. Many set up home with local women, creating second or third families in their places of work.
Wives, however, were left
to cope alone in the arid "homelands," labouring on their small holdings
to feed and clothe the children, while always being expected to remain
faithful to their absent husbands. For them there were no new soul mates
and no comfort since, under the eye of family and traditional leaders,
they had little choice but to comply.
Thus Namibian men have retained a de facto polygamous lifestyle while denying a similar latitude to women. A man may impregnate a woman or girl with virtual impunity. A woman who strays can expect dire punishment.
Moreover, under colonialism women worked on farms and were often used as sex slaves. German farmers' diaries describe the beating of pregnant women, some of whom later miscarried. During the freedom struggle, torture of both men and women was common -- electric shock, virtual drowning, beatings and being held against car exhausts. Although no exact figures are available, hundreds of women were also forcibly injected with Depo Provera and sterilized against their will.
Women fought alongside men
in their nation's struggle for freedom from South Africa. They were rewarded
by having equality between the sexes written into Namibia's 1990 independence
constitution. However, although the Dutch Roman law making women minors
all their lives was abolished in 1996, most men continue to behave as heads
of households. Many women
themselves contribute to their own oppression by believing that men have the right to lord over them. For historical reasons, women have been very poorly educated, if at all, and the "Bantu education" they received from the South African government was designed to keep them subservient. This suited the Apartheid regime to have a passive population of women scraping a living in the homelands to keep all the non-productive population thriving while men were put to work for rock bottom wages in
the mines. Such mentalities are hard to change.
Francina, a poor, illiterate, black Owambo woman described her not uncommon story to University of Namibia researchers, Debie LeBeau and Eunice Iipinge, who held in-depth interviews with a number of battered women for their 1996 study, "Women and Law Reform."
Francina's husband, Petrus, would demand the money she had earned to spend in the "shebeens" (beer houses). If she refused to give it to him he would beat her. "I tried to protect my eyes when he beat me," she said. "I used to go to hospital with a sore face and the whole body. I protected only my eyes...The first two babies were miscarried because I was beaten."
In Owambo society, a childless woman has no status and is despised, so Francina's suffering was not only physical, but social and mental. In the end she left Petrus. However, because she had been married in one of the so-called communal areas -- the old Apartheid "homelands" -- in the traditional Owambo way, all the family property was assumed to belong to her husband, even though she had sold goods in the local market to earn a little cash. Francina was therefore left destitute.
Although she lived in one of the comfortable, predominantly white suburbs, Ellen told researcher LeBeau a similiar story. Of mixed German and indigenous descent, she had married her childhood sweetheart, a German-speaking Namibian whose family considers itself middle class. When Ellen's husband had been out drinking, he would come home in the early hours of the morning, smash the furniture and beat his wife.
"He insulted me in front of his mother and insulted [her] when she tried to help me," she said. "One time it was very bad. He wanted to take a stick and put it into my vagina, and he tore my clothes."
Ellen was persuaded against speaking out by her husband's family who did not wish to be shamed in the eyes of the community: They talked her into staying. She underwent constant beatings -- every three days during the worst period, she says. She now suffers from tinnitus, an ailment which causes a constant ringing in the ears. "I can't hear very nicely because of the [beatings] he gave me on my head, he clapped me on my ears a lot. I told the doctor that sometimes I hear loud noises," she said. " When I sleep... it sounds like my head is going to come off."
Eventually, however, Ellen plucked up the courage to go to the police. Her experience explains why many women are reluctant to turn to the law. "I feel that they [the police] weren't interested in my case," she said. "In the meantime he could have come and killed me, but they wouldn't do anything... Even when women are laying charges, they [the police] are doing nothing about the case..."
Both men in general, and a large section of the police authorities, believe that what happens behind the closed doors of the family home is private and that they have no business interfering.
Thus, despite all the talking,
advertising and campaigning, it seems that women still have a long road
to travel before the tranquil pictures in the travel agents' windows of
a traditional African paradise or happy holiday playground become a reality
for the women of Namibia.
British-born Margaret Bradley
has worked and lived overseas for 30 years, almost entirely in developing
countries. Since moving to Namibia in 1994, she has freelanced for British
newspapers, written and edited for "Sister Namibia" Magazine and written
video scripts for NGO promotional videos. She recently completed a Masters
of Science in Women, Development and Administration at York University
in the United Kingdom.