The Bullies Are Scared

We all know it’s the right way to go, but …

The divorce bill tabled by justice minister Yvonne Dausab in the National Assembly this week should be sailing through with 100% approval and is better than the homophobic bills passed in two weeks last year.

But no, it was not to be.

Trust deputy works minister Veikko Nekundi and former minister-turned-backbencher Tjekero Tweya to throw a spanner in the works when it comes to progress on civil rights causes.

“We must remain Africans. I’ve never seen any European parliament adopting African culture. Divorce isn’t part of our values as Africans,” Nekundi proclaimed with ignorance-driven audacity, claiming African culture does not provide for spousal maintenance and restitution.

Thankfully, this time LPM chief whip Utaara Mootu was alert to not letting misinformation about ‘African culture’ go uncorrected.

“Based on the African traditions Nekundi is alluding to, you are still accustomed to taking care of your ex-wife, especially if you are married traditionally. Maybe in your family it’s different,” Mootu said.

You go, madam chief whip!

Perhaps Nekundi wants to misuse parliament to achieve his personal interests.

African culture and tradition is not the same for one person, family, village, town, country or continent.

Namibia itself has one of the most diverse African societies.

Even in what Nekundi might claim is his Aawambo tradition, the values of maintenance and material restitution towards at least the ex-wife is an ancient practice.

Abusive spouses, especially men and their families have tended to deploy chauvinistic practices to deny the contribution of women to the material riches they bring into the marriage.

The divorce bill seeks to address that and more, including the fault-based approach inherited from apartheid according to which spouses are forced to accuse and attack each other before the courts allow them to part ways.

Nekundi clearly wants to cling to the relics of apartheid and colonialism.

As former government minister Erkki Nghimtina told The Namibian in March 2022: “It’s supposed to be simple to just say: ‘Look, our love has expired to an extent that we can no longer be together anymore’. Then we part ways. But it is not. It’s more complicated [by the legal system].”

Tweya and the PDM’s Elma Dienda also seem like misguided souls.

They argue that the proposed law should wait until the definition of ‘spouse’ is settled.

This is a reference to the homophobic laws being pushed through by lawmakers who want to deny equal status (the same as heterosexual marriages) to same-sex couples.

There’s no ‘chicken or egg, which came first?’ in the divorce bill’s provision for spousal and child maintenance. The law change is long overdue.

If anything, we agree with Dr Kalumbi Shangula’s proposal to rename the divorce bill to avoid its negative connotation.
Shangula has proposed an official and neutral term – ‘marriage dissolution’ law.

Any term promoting peace and harmony should be supported.

The current law harms the most vulnerable people, those who are often dependent on their male spouses for their material well-being or so-called societal values.

It is women who are forced to stay in abusive marriages.

This sort of law is widely needed, especially in traditional and rural settings where women are held hostage to abusive husbands and their families.

Lawmakers should find a way to incorporate customary marriages into this type of protection for the sake of young women often forced into the relationships.
We can only urge lawmakers to use common sense and compassion in approaching this progressive legislation.

They should avoid falling prey to peer pressure and the male-dominated narratives of the likes of Nekundi and Tweya.

The bullies are surely afraid of equity and equality. Let’s not satisfy their fear mongering.

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