By Mwaka Simasiku
NAMIBIAN Ombudsman, Advocate John Walters is in sighting to bring to book all offenders who are violating the rights of the young women during sikenge, female initiation ceremony to be prosecuted.
In Namibia’s Zambezi region, these harmful cultural practices are very rear among tribes of the Caprivian people, which are dry sex where a girl has to go through severe pain, tearing and exchange of blood while a man is being satisfied during sex, as this practice makes it possible for the woman and girl to get injured during sex and this can be considered as rape and assault.
The new law would also make the perpetrators in jeopardy such as the elderly ladies who are forcing young girls to be pulling their labia minoras ‘malebe’ when reach puberty stage, and those uncles and grandfathers tasting the virginity of their young girls by bhaving sexual intercourse in ‘sikenge’ are also committing rape because there is no consent.
Adv. Walters made suggestions that “We should criminalize these harmful practices so that people can go to court, file a complaint, so that the offender can be arrested or prosecuted.”
He added that “The government should provide legal aid so that any person whose rights have been violated can instruct a lawyer and sue the person who violated these rights.”
“How can a young girl from Chinchimani approach the Ombudsman’s office for legal assistance or legal advice?” he asked
The Ombudsman has opened an eye on the harmful cultural practices from a Human Rights perspective during the National Dialogue led by the Women Leadership Center WLC in Katima Mulilo recently.
Three Regional dialogues have been attended over the past few years in which objectives as helping each other to find solutions to these harmful cultural practices, understanding of human rights, building an equal gender rights among men and women and to abolish discriminative laws have been outlined.
With the above mentioned objectives Ombudsman Advocate Walters said
“People are not aware of their human rights and freedoms. It is then much more important for people to be aware and understand their rights in order to claim them. Human rights education is the key to developing a culture of human rights.”
Advocate John Walters questioned “Did men institute these harmful practices for their own benefit or convenience of power over women, and do women still depend on these practices in the name of culture which strip of their own opinion, voice, choice, dignity or any harmful practices?”
He added saying that we are all aware that education is an empowering force; therefore women need to be given the power of choice, the power to say NO to these harmful cultural practices.
In order for rights to be made aware of they need to be sensitized and taught at a tender age, as the old famous saying says “you can not teach an old dog new tricks.” So human rights have to be groomed into a person’s mind as from childhood.
The Ombudsman suggested that it would be better if human rights were taught in schools so that children can know their rights, “a human right based school should have teachers to cover human rights education. Human rights can only be understood when we change our attitudes, behavior and way of thinking”.
“Human rights promotion is needed to insure that our citizens know their rights and the redress mechanism, the institutes available to them when their rights are violated.”
He stressed that the central responsibility to protect human rights rests with the government.
“Article 25 sub article 2 of the constitution states that aggrieved persons who claim that his/her human rights or fundamental freedoms have been violated may approach the courts, or they may approach the Ombudsman for legal assistance or advice. The constitution just protects and guarantees these rights. ”
He continued by outlining the conventions of the rights of the child as; the education of a child shall be directed to the development of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and for the principles enshrined in the Chatter of the United Nations (UN).
The Ombudsman has its head office in Windhoek and three regional offices in Namibia, very soon it will open its regional office in Katima Mulilo.
He further said that the government should strengthen his office in order for communication between the Ombudsman and the people so that they can work together.
The advocate concluded by gracefully asking “the few men in here should share the message with ten other men and ten other men should share the message with hundred other men, with this we can achieve something”