BETWEEN the months of August and September 2020 alone, a total 120 children in Namibia fell victim to sexual assault by either those close to them, or strangers who prey on the weak and vulnerable in society.
Minister of Justice, Yvonne Dauseb, during yesterday’s parliamentary session painted a grim picture for the nation while sharing statistics, adding that such high volumes of violent crimes against minors is completely unacceptable.
“While on an operation with City Police last week Friday, a call came in about the rape of two little boys ages 4 and 5, respectively. Upon arrival at the scene, I was informed that an aunt found a 16-year-old boy naked in the company of the young boys. It was not immediately clear whether or not there was in fact penetration at the time,” Dausab told the August house.
Dausab further explained that the aunt was in tears, unsure of how to react particularly because the little boys were in her care and she had quickly stepped out to attend to matters outside of the home.
The aunt entrusted the two young boys to the older boy, who was found in a compromising position with the very boys he was expected to care for and protect.
“The images of innocence on the faces of those two little boys was stark compared to the almost nonchalant disposition of the older boy,” said Dausab.
When family members and those entrusted with the care and protection of the girl child and the boy child behave this way, said Dausab, they are offending the sterling intent of the preamble of the Namibian Constitution.
“Those boys lives have been altered forever and our domestic and international obligations will remain hollow if we are not careful. It is therefore my hope that soon we will see a society that is not flooded with newspaper articles and police reports that sees an increase in such violent crimes against our girl and boy child,” she expresses.
The minister said that Article 14 in the Constitution enjoins society and the State to ensure that the family as a natural and fundamental group unit is protected.
According to Dausab, the law is not enough in the fight against sexual violence on women, men and children and that they must intensify the conversations on disturbing evils in society.
“Either we are not doing enough or that which we are doing is treated with contempt and this would be a sorry state for our social stratagem,” she said.
The Legislature has endeavoured to abate the recent spate of violence against children by enacting the amendments to the Child Care and Protection Act, 2015 (Act No. 3 of 2015), explained Dausab.
In so doing, one of the mechanisms aimed at limiting the number of children affected by sexual violence is the establishment of the National Child Protection Register in terms of section 238 of the Child Care and Protection Act, 2015.
This register lists all known perpetrators of child abuse to ensure that offenders are not eligible to work with children or at places where they would encounter children.
In addition, 259 sections of this Act, sets out varying degrees of protections, more generally, various legal and institutional arrangements are in place to ensure the wellbeing and interest of children.
Section 7(c) also places a specific duty on the parent or person responsible for the child to protect the child from neglect, discrimination, abuse, violence and harm.
“When incidents like these are reported, one is left feeling a great sense of disappointment, and people are rightly asking what more must be done. The additional legal frameworks that protect children are: combating of trafficking in persons act 1 of 2018, combating of rape act 8 of 2000 and the combating of immoral practices act 21 of 19,” said Dausab.
As far as the state is concerned, she added, the required legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental, injury or abuse, neglect or negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parents, legal guardians or any other persons who have care of the child, are in place.
These include the steps expected from states under Article 34 of the Convention of the Rights of a Child and Article 27 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, to protect the child from all forms of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.
Dausab lastly said that as a society they have a huge responsibility to interrogate the underlying reasons for this continuing escalation of particularly sexual violence against little boys and girls.
Dausab said she intents to take this issue up with the Prosecutor General, Law Enforcement, Ombudsman, Office of the First Lady and of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare for a firmer conversation around how to improve existing safeguards to protect children.
“Otherwise the social fabric of the society is dangerously falling under the radar of being caring and protective of our children,” she concluded.