TRIGGER WARNINGS: Gender based violence/Femicide

On Thursday 8 October, protests broke out in Namibia calling for an end to sexual and gender-based violence and femicide. The protests began shortly after the remains of 22-year-old Shannon Wasserfall who had gone missing in April was found in a shallow grave in the dunes at Walvis Bay. 

Gender-based violence is any form of violence directed at an individual because of their sex or gender identity. It is very often perpetrated against women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community because of unequal power structures in a patriarchal-dominant world. Femicide is the intentional killing of women because they are women. Gender-based violence and femicide work in systematic ways and they expose a culture of violence that is prevalent in a patriarchal society.

The protesters of the youth-led #ShutItAllDown movement demand a declaration of a State of Emergency for femicide, sexual and gender-based violence, the establishment of a sex offenders registry, and a review of sentencing laws of sex offenders and murderers. As well as the resignation of the current Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, Doreen Sioka, who has also been opposed to legalizing abortion in Namibia.

The protestors have been met with rubber bullets and tears gas, while 26 were detained who have now been released. This has now become expected behavior from police units worldwide. The victims of violence and abuse who are protesting for aid and action are instead attacked by police units. 

According to Daily Maverick, former deputy commissioner Edwin Kanguatjivi said in a statement that 56 rape cases were reported across Namibia between 11 July and 24 August 2018, of which 26 involved minors. Furthermore, it states that police statistics show that between 2014 and 2019, 139 women were murdered by their partners. The Gender-based Violence Protection Unit in Windhoek reported that between December 2018 and September 2019, they had received on average 200 cases of domestic violence per month.

This is an unfortunate reality for many women in Africa. According to the World Population Review, the top four countries in the top 10 countries with the highest rape rate in 2020 are African. South Africa is at the top of this list, followed by Botswana, Lesotho, and Swaziland respectively. In South Africa, multiple protests and marches against gender-based violence and femicide have taken place. The #AmINext movement has painted the grim experience of many women who fear for their lives and safety daily. 

In 2019, Namibia took strides against gender-based violence by organizing a Slut Shame Walk against rape culture including the victim-blaming of sexual assault victims. This reveals the prevailing spirit and determination of the Namibian people who constantly take a stand against the injustices that women face. It also exposes the seriousness of the problem of femicide, sexual and gender-based violence in the country.

We can do our part by spreading awareness of the #ShutItAllDown movement. Here is a link to the official #ShutItAllDown demands document to familiarize yourself with the movement. 

Namibian women and youth are calling for authorities to prioritize the safety of women and children. This is a necessary and important fight that must be taken up. Let us stand with these women and elevate their concerns and voices until action is taken. 

Please sign this petition to support the establishment of an accessible sex offender registry in Namibia. 

  • Tamia Adolph

    Tamia Adolph is a writer and journalist, who writes poetry and fiction writing under the pseudonym, Imogene Mist. She is the founder of a mental health awareness organization called #MeTooButImStillHere, which aims to advocate for mental illness in Africa. She holds a BA in Journalism and BA (Honours) in English Literature. Currently, she is completing her Masters in English Literature. Her passions include musicals, environmentalism, and all forms of art.