Since 2021 to date, 284 rape cases have been reported in the Erongo region, among 1 374 cases of gender-based violence (GBV).
This amounts to more than one case a day, while child abuse cases have reached 410 in the same period.
These statistics were presented by the head of social workers in the Erongo region, Audrey !Gaes, at a stakeholders meeting with the parliamentary standing committee on gender equality, social development and family affairs, at Swakopmund on Monday.
The data, compiled from various sources including the Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Child Protection Services, the Namibian Police’s GBV Protection Unit, and the Ministry of Health and Social Services’ social workers’ office covered a range of issues reported to social workers.
“If boys are not reflected in the child abuse figures, it does not mean it’s not happening at all. It could just be unreported,” !Gaes said, explaining why no case of sexual abuse of boys has been reported.
“These figures should prompt us all to ask what more can be done to protect the most vulnerable members of our society.”
Furthermore, the statistics showed that from April 2021 to the end of 2023, 85 unwanted pregnancies and 343 teenage pregnancies were reported.
Paternity disputes, often characterised by the phrase “it’s not my child”, stood at 250.
Some 135 cases related to custody and control, which involve determining the sole guardian of a child, were reported in this period.
Despite the programmes currently in place to combat GBV, challenges remain, including a lack of sustainable community GBV prevention support programmes and facilities, a lack of safe spaces for adult GBV survivors, and a lack of state mental health professionals.
!Gaes shed light on the unique challenges faced by boys in the region and the need for targeted interventions, further addressing the high school dropout rate among boys, often due to early involvement in criminal activities.
She called for more programmes focused on empowering boys.
!Gaes called for the continuous active involvement of all players in curbing GBV, educating the community on available policies, and encouraging communities to report incidents of GBV.
She also urged lawmakers to implement community voices through the development of improved laws and to strengthen existing services to be responsive to the needs of GBV survivors.
The standing committee’s role is to examine, consider and report on the provision of health and social services, the promotion of gender equality and the improvement of women’s status in Namibia.
“When you talk about gender equality, we talk about everybody. Children, women, men, and families,” committee chairperson Gotthard Kasuto said on Monday.
The committee also has the duty to enquire about bills and acts that discriminate or negatively impact the lives of women and children, and to challenge policies and cultural norms that discriminate against women and children.
In 2020, the National Assembly received a petition from #ShutItAllDown Namibia seeking to end sexual and gender-based violence and femicide in Namibia.
The petition was referred to the committee, which then decided to gather input from stakeholders countrywide.
The committee will report its findings and make recommendations to the National Assembly for consideration, Kasuto said.
He emphasised the importance of stakeholder views in formulating a comprehensive report on the matter.
He acknowledged the prevalence of GBV in the country, highlighting that it is not only of concern to women, but also to men.
“GBV is also happening to men. The problem is that some men are not coming out,” Kasuto said.
“We want to make sure communities are also involved from the beginning before we come up with the laws we think may address some of these issues,” he said.
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