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And from a local perspective… June 5, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Danger, Devastating, Gender, Home and away, Namibia, Raaah!, Tradition, Violence.
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Following on from the previous posting about rape in
Namibia, I thought I would share a few findings with you…

Whilst I was in Botswana, I was chatting with a manager of the campsite we were staying at one night. He was talking about how they provide transport for each of the female staff members to get home after dark because it isn’t safe for them to walk around, as the likelihood is that they’ll get raped. Understandable, I thought, from what I have heard of stories in Namibia. He then went on to tell us that he had chatted with the male staff and other local guys, asking them about rape. Apparently, for these guys in Maun, if they see a woman walking alone at night, she is fair game, like it is their right to rape her if they so choose. Furthermore, they reckon that the woman is asking for it by walking alone at night, so she should expect it.

Sadly, this is pretty common in this part of the world. Whilst at home, rape is often socially held as a rarity, done by psychos and sadistic crazies (although the statistics will prove otherwise), out here it is common behaviour. Men often see sex as a right, for them to take whenever, however and with whomever they choose. Rape by a husband or boyfriend is often not recognised, because if a woman is with the guy, it is her duty to be sexually available for him. In many parts of the country, the head of the house will offer his women to visiting guests like at home we offer a cup of tea and a biscuit. The question of consent goes out the window.

Women and children are at risk almost every moment of the day. A few months ago, I was walking to the shops with my boss’ maid who was walking to the bus stop. We passed the nearest one, so I started to say goodbye. She looked me in the eye, “Are you crazy? There is no one else here, and we are by a riverbed. I am not waiting here. Guys will make me trouble if I do”. So we walked on and I left her at another bus stop on the main road. She went on to explain that the men here are so highly sexed that they would just grab her in broad daylight if they could.

Whether it is a rural or an urban area, it happens everyday, everywhere. With young children, babies even, young women and old. The blame seems to fall with the victim as well, for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Victims can end up carrying their rapist’s child, or contracting HIV, as a rapist would hardly think about using a condom. And sadly the myth that you can cure AIDS by having sex with a virgin has spread to Namibia, so the youth are at even more risk. But sadly they are anyway as paedophilia doesn’t seem to be recognised in the same way as it is back home, and child abuse is, again, regarded as a given right by some.

My sources of this information is mostly through friends, colleagues or the news and research papers, as no one likes to admit that it goes on so habitually. As a young woman, I do feel at risk, and take safety precautions (since my recent mugging, I don’t go anywhere without my new pepper spray), although my black colleagues and friends do say that I am of lower risk being white. A lot of development programmes boast female empowerment, but it is hard for them to move forward when women in this country face such dangers which are out of their control.

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