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Law Reform Chief warns perpetrators of harmful cultural practices

By Staff Reporter

Namibia’s Law Reform Chairperson, Ms.Yvonne Dausab has warned all perpetrators who are violating the fundamental rights and freedoms of women, with harmful cultural practices to stop it.

Law Reform Chairperson, Ms.Yvonne Dausab

Ms. Dausab facilitated a legal perspective on the prevention of harmful cultural practices in the Zambezi Region, during the National Dialogue organised by a feminist organisation called Women’s Leadership Centre (WLC) held in Katima Mulilo on Monday.

At the gathering, girls, young women and women from Chinchimani and Libula have broken the silence and shared their testimonies about their experiences in their cultural practices, in calling for the elimination of some of the harmful practices.

The Chairperson shed some lights to them about the relationship between these harmful cultural practices in conformity with the legal framework , the Namibian Constitution. “Why is it that when we talk about changing Customary to benefit all Namibians we are resisting it resisting it? Civil Law and Customary Law are on the same page, if this is correct, customary law must be questioned and changed when it becomes unconstitutional.” Stressed Ms. Dausab

She added saying that the law is not everything, but it is important when people talk about law should understand that it plays a small part, the bigger part has to do with attitudes, behavior, and interaction among each other.

“When we were talking about marriage I was told to go through dancing lessons, but I asked what my husband to be was going to be taught, no answer was given. No one would have a problem if the culture is applied equally to everyone.”

The chairperson is proud of Zambezi region that they have taken a stand and point out the harmful cultural practices that they want to correct and improve so that everyone especially the young ladies and girls who go through these harmful practices can feel protected.

“I’m actually very proud of Zambezi region because you are willing to deal with your issues.”

According to her, Chapter 3 of the Namibian Constitution, it protects the human rights and freedoms, “if we look at it from a legal perspective most of these harmful practices can be perceived or converted as a criminal offense.”

“An example would be dry sex where a girl has to go through severe pain, tearing and exchange of blood while a man is being satisfied during sex, it’s possible for the girl to get injured during sex and this can be considered as rape and assault.”

Namibia’s Law Reform Chairperson, She however interpreted that by law a culture is a way of life that a community has agreed upon with values and norms, have accepted and it has been practiced over a period of time, but it must be right for everyone to practice it.

“In this case everyone has the right to respect and dignity, whereby the practice of forcing these young girls to be pulling their labia minora ‘malebe’ goes against this law. Those uncles and grandfathers tasting the virginity of their young girls in ‘sikenge’ are also committing rape because there is no consent.”She lamented

“The term consent in law means to give permission, the permission given should be positive and not uncertain, No should mean No, Yes should mean Yes. If you don’t agree then you don’t agree. No one should force you to do something you do not desire.”

“Whatever we do should be of good interest for the people not something that deprives them. We all know that culture changes as we grow, we leave what is bad behind and move forward with what we perceive as good.”

Ms. Dausab, a Lawyer by profession and who lectured Law at the University of Namibia before she was appointed by president Hage Geingob in 2015, warned that “ Mothers who take their children to sikenge at a tender age should do away with that because you could be liable of rape, let the child reach an age which they are well enough to make their own decision whether to go for it or not, do not force them. We should protect our young girls”.

“When you do something harmful to a person it means that you want to hurt that person which is against the law. If a woman or your wife tells you that she’s tired she can’t have sex on that day, be understanding and do not try to force her into it.”

“If you were in the process of having sex and in the middle of it a woman says she doesn’t want anymore, you have to pull out… [Yvonne Laughing], because if you are taken to court and the judge asks you if she told you to stop and you say yes, you will be found guilty of rape” said Ms. Dausab

She mentioned that everyone should be treated equally in the eyes of the law, “so if a man practices polygamy why can’t a woman have more than one husband”.

Chairperson of Law Reform in Namibia further concluded with extreme caution that “Be careful, because these harmful practices can work against you when taken in the hands of the law!”