Gender-Based Violence: A Major Human Right’s Issue in Namibia

According to United Nation (UN) Women, one in three women in Namibia has experienced physical violence and one in four has experienced sexual violence.

Namibia is considered to have a generally good human rights record, although there are some areas of concern. Some of the key human rights issues in the country include corruption perception which remains a persistent problem in Namibia and freedom of expression which is generally respected although, there have been reports of intimidation and harassment of journalists and media outlets. And finally, women’s rights. Despite progress in advancing women’s rights, women continue to face extensive discrimination and violence.

Gender-based violence (GBV) is a widespread issue in Namibia, affecting both women and men. It is the country’s one of numerous human rights violations that encompasses physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, and can include domestic violence, rape, and sexual harassment. The government has taken various steps to address GBV, such as passing laws and implementing programs, but it remains a significant challenge in the country today.


The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a surge in GBV cases. Gender-based violence has taken the form of a “shadow pandemic” in Namibia. The United Nation (UN) and the African Union (AU) reported that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated gender inequalities and placed women and girls at a much greater risk of gender-based violence. A Namibian Sun article reports that although Covid-19 claimed many lives, it excessively impacted women’s and girls’ lives and threatened to reverse the improvements in advancing women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality. First Lady of Namibia, Monica Geingos, said, “What COVID has done is amplified the existing fault lines in our society. The violence that was there, COVID-19 just provided a conducive environment. You find the programs that were supposed to help or provided support were closed or unavailable during the national lockdown.”

The restrictions brought forth by the pandemic, caused household strains. Many families were stuck at home, isolated from the public which created a breeding ground for the abuse inflicted upon women and girls by men in the household. School closures have also increased the abuse, especially for the poorest girls and adolescents. They face a greater risk of early and forced marriage, sexual abuse and unintended pregnancies.


Some of the root causes of GBV in Namibia include poverty, economic inequality and most importantly patriarchal attitudes and norms. Toxic masculinity refers to cultural norms and expectations that encourage and praise aggressive, dominant, and unemotional behavior in men.

Namibia remains a patriarchal society and according to an article in ‘The Conversation’, toxic masculinity is anchored in paternalistic and patronizing value systems of male supremacy exacerbated by the effects of colonization.

Toxic masculinity frequently leads to negative outcomes such as violence, harassment, bullying, and suppression of emotions, causing not only others but also themselves. It also supports traditional gender roles and creates a harmful environment for those who do not conform to these expectations, which normally include women and girls.


In 2013, the Namibia Demographic Health Survey indicated that 33 percen of married women aged 15-49 years have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence from their partner. It also indicated that 32 percent of adolescent girls aged 15-19 and 35 percent of young women aged 20-24 have experienced physical violence from a partner. During 2012-2016, the Namibian Police classified rape as third 3rd in the top 5 for prevalent violence reported in Namibia. According to the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA, Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) is worsened by condoning society’s attitude towards SGBV. The same report also indicated that 28 percent of women and 22 percent of men aged 15-49 justified beating as an acceptable way for a husband to discipline his wife (NDHS: 2013).


The Namibian government has taken steps to address GBV, including passing laws and implementing policies. They established support services for survivors, and continue to conduct public awareness campaigns. The government has also passed the Combating of Domestic Violence Act, and support services, such as shelters and hotlines, but implementation and enforcement of these measures remain a challenge as GBV cases remain at an all-time high.

Civil society organizations and communities also play a role in creating a safer and more equal society. Here are some community-based and government-led organizations aiming at combating gender-based violence in Namibia:

  1. Healing Wound Association:

Healing Wound is a registered Non-Profit Organization (NPO) which offers psychological and social support and counselling. The organization raises awareness of social ills that contribute to poor mental health affecting women, girls, victims and survivors. It is based in Walvis Bay in the Erongo Region but they have branches across the country.

  1. One Economy Foundation:

The One Economy Foundation is a social welfare organization which was launched in May 2016. The #BreakFree Anti-Violence Campaign, which falls under the Foundation, is a nationwide call for action, which seeks to create awareness around the root causes of violence and the related outcomes, including conflict resolution, unresolved trauma and the problematic mindsets that fuel violent behavior.

  1. Ombetja Yehinga Organization: 

Ombetja Yehinga Organization (OYO) is a Namibian Welfare Organization established in December 2002 and officially launched in March 2003. It is registered as a trust with the High Court of Namibia in 2009. The organization aims at using the arts – both visual and performing – to create awareness and mitigate the impact of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and other social problems such as domestic violence, rape, and the abuse of alcohol and other drugs among the youth of Namibia.

OYO’s vision is to develop a society in which there is broad access to information and the arts. By developing their creative skills, young people empower themselves to make informed choices, and thus become more prosperous, increase their life expectancy, and improve the quality of their lives.

Even though government institutions, civil societies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) continue to take preventative measures to end gender-based violence among women, girls and men, it remains a societal issue today. The World Health Organization says that despite the robust policy and legal framework in Namibia, women and girls are still exposed to violence throughout their lifecycles, whether at home, school, or in the communities they live in.

Naango Kainge | 


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