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Causes of violence: Understanding the perpetrators of violent crimes against women and girls in Namibia.

Most victims and survivors of violence in Namibia are women and girls, while a large percentage of the perpetrators of this violence are men. In an endeavour to understand this phenomenon in a local context, Women's Action for Development, the University of Namibia and the Ministry of Safety and Security conducted research now published in the paper Understanding the perpetrators of violent crimes against women and girls in Namibia - Implications for prevention and treatment.

The study aimed to gain an understanding of who the perpetrators of violence against women and girls are, and why they commit these violent crimes. Issues of culture and community life associated with violence against women and girls were looked at to reveal what it is that allows a person to assault, rape and kill another human being, sometimes without regret and remorse.

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Telling their stories

The researchers interviewed a total of 200 inmates from prisons in the Oshana, Kavango, Erongo, Hardap and Khomas regions. The highest number of prisoners interviewed (93) were from the Hardap Prison with the lowest from the Swakopmund Prison which only had one respondent.

Some key issues came up from their stories. Poverty was a recurring theme, where many of the inmates who had nothing and came from poor backgrounds claim they were driven to crime by the lack of basic necessities. A twenty-five-year-old inmate from Hardap Prison tells his story:

My mother is a single mother who is unemployed She could not provide me with the things I needed or pay for my school fees. At the age of twelve, I began to look for things myself I became friends with bad guys and we broke into cars and snatched people's handbags for survival. A t times we even did housebreaking. One day, my friends (four of them) and I saw a guy and his girlfriend going home in the evening. We wanted to rob them then, but found out they had nothing. The guy was very aggressive and was fighting to prevent us from hurting his girlfriend. We beat him up, tied him and raped his girlfriend.

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Most of the inmates interviewed (80%) grew up with parents. This does not however mean that they grew up in a stable family environment. 7.5% of middle-aged inmates and 52% of younger inmates experienced parental violence during their childhood. The report states that violent behavior is learnt, and the age at which a child is exposed to violent behavior plays an important role in future partner abuse. A thirty-one-year-old recounts his experience:

My father was never at home to be with us and he was having extramarital affairs with many women. He mistreated my mum and sometimes physically abused her. One day my father and his friends sexually abused me and at the time I did not know it was wrong. I grew up thinking that the only way to show love to someone is through sex.

Alcohol abuse was often raised and used as an excuse for violence. Many perpetrators held the view that they are not responsible for their actions when drunk - that they 'can't control1 themselves. A sixty-year-old inmate shared his story:

I used to abuse alcohol a lot when 1 was outside [before being imprisoned]. I drank every day and most times the Owambo liquor which is cheap and very strong. One day I was very, very, drunk and I went home to sleep. When I arrived home I saw my neighbour's [13-year-old] kid playing outside and I took her to my room and made love to her. Her mother finds me having sex with her daughter and she calls the police ... I have accepted that I raped a young child and I regret what I did, I only advise people to stay away from alcohol because it can lead to many things.

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Main findings of the report

Alcohol and drug abuse were cited as the leading contributing factors to domestic violence against women and girls in Namibia, taking up 90% compared to other issues such as financial problems (61%) and unemployment (58%). Other factors mentioned were culture, low levels of education, socio-economic marginalisation, broken family systems and poor socialisation.

Most of the perpetrators were ignorant of the contents of the Rape Act of 2000, and that having sex against the will of their wife or partner is a criminal offence. Another interesting finding was that certain cultural groups were more prone to committing violent crimes towards women and children than other cultural groups.

This study does not provide definitive answers to the question of root causes of violence against women and girls. However, it generates information that will hopefully aid the relevant authorities and stakeholders in designing and developing intervention programmes for perpetrators of violent crimes against women and girls in Namibia.

RELATED ARTICLE: HOW TO AVOID RAPE

DON'T GO OUT WITHOUT CLOTHES ...

That encourages men.

DONT GO OUT WITH CLOTHES ...

Any clothes encourage some men.

DON'T GO OUT ALONE AT NIGHT ...

That encourages men.

DONT GO ALONE AT ANY TIME ...

Any situation encourages some men.

DONT GO OUT WITH A FEMALE FRIEND ...

Some men are encouraged by numbers.

DON'T GO OUT WITH A MALE FRIEND ...

Some male friends are capable of rape.

Or you may meet a rapist who will assault your friend before starting on you.

DON,T STAY AT HOME ...

Intruders and relatives are potential rapists.

AVOID CHILDHOOD ...

Some rapists are turned on by the very young.

AVOID OLD AGE ...

Some rapists inflict themselves on aged women.

DON'T HAVE A FATHER, GRANDFATHER, UNCLE OR BROTHER ...

These are the relatives who most often rape women.

DON'T MARRY ...

Rape is legal within marriage in most countries.

TO BE QUITE SURE ...

Don't exist.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
Author:Magenya, Sheena
Publication:Sister Namibia
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:6NAMI
Date:Oct 1, 2008
Words:953
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