I am one of those people who don’t support this thing of husband and wife claiming to be raping each other.Elma Dienda (MP) stating her opinion on consent
Words said by Hon. Elma Dienda, a member of parliament and the opposition party (PDM). Chuckling with uninformed confidence, depicting detachment from the reality of the sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) crisis, perpetuating the violent assertion of power that rape is and downplaying consent and bodily autonomy.
Our words hold power
How long will it take until we realize that uninformed opinions are dangerous? How many more wake-up calls do we need if the reckless statement made by Hon. Dienda is not enough already?
We should not forget that Namibia is a rapist haven; with deeply staggering figures of rape cases to which marriage is not exclusive.Rauna Elungi
The gag here is that Hon. Dienda’s utterances and disregard for marital rape are not new. In a Parliamentary debate during the Resumption of Second Reading of the Combatting Rape Bill in 1999, the former Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport, Hadino Hishongwa, argued that marital rape does not exist.
“There is no rape in marriage. That cannot be true. There is no rape in marriage. The two agreed to come together and they know what will take place through thick and thin…”. Former member of Parliament, Petrus Iilonga, argued that acknowledging marital rape served only to distract from “real rape”. Additionally, not so long ago, SWAPO party Secretary-General downplayed it as a “bedroom story”.
Quick fact check: Marital rape exists and is recognized in Namibia
Important facts to note: (1) Marital rape exists and is recognized in Namibia. (2) The Combating of Rape Act 8 of 2000 is recognized as the strongest, most progressive rape act, and a vital anti-rape tool, globally (Britton and Shook, 2014). At this point, one would wish that 23 years later, now with new proposed amendments, Hon. Dienda had read the Act and spared us second-hand embarrassment.
Section 2(3) of The Combating of Rape Act 8 of 2000 states: “No marriage or other relationship shall constitute a defense to a charge of rape under this Act.” The Guidelines for Service Providers booklet by the LAC, boldly highlights: “Rape may occur in any relationship, including a marriage.”
How Hon. Dienda and other lawmakers missed all that is shocking.
Rape may occur in any relationship, including a marriage.LAC Guidelines for Service Providers
Religion and patriarchal setups in marriages advocate for sexist subservience and sex is regarded as a “sacred” act which is bound to happen with or without consent. It is not, therefore, shocking that Dienda referred to the Bible, though untruthfully. That makes the disregard of marital rape the cheapest take other than recognizing its existence. In addition, the persistent upholding of common and customary laws, sexism and capitalism normalizes SGBV.
Numbers Don’t Lie
We should not forget that Namibia is a rapist haven; with deeply staggering figures of rape cases of which marriage is certainly not exclusive. Sexual violence has gone beyond epidemic levels considering the under-reported cases due to victim-blaming, shaming, and rejection, for a complex set of reasons.
Reframe the SGBV discourse!
Now, more than ever, we need to reframe the discourse around rape. Debunk every myth, deconstruct regressive opinions and reinforce aggressive advocacy.Rauna Elungi
Rapists can be anyone and there are no perfect victims. We should appreciate the varying dynamics of SGBV, deconstruct regressive opinions and reinforce aggressive advocacy for consent, with zero tolerance for sexist attitudes.
In addition to basic meritocracy, those in positions of power must have clear and progressive insight on critical issues such as SGBV. Should you consider this when voting for lawmakers? Absolutely!