On Our Culture Of Violence

I just got off the phone with someone who shares our concern with the apparently escalating incidences of violence against women and girls in this country.

The caller was not certain whether violence against women really is on the rise or whether it is just that reporting on this issue is increasing. Perhaps he has a point there. In my mind, however, this country is rooted in a culture in which violence against anybody considered to be an underdog was widely accepted and condoned. Dark-skinned people were taught that there was a social hierarchy and that we had to know our places in that hierarchy. Failure to know where you belong, inevitably, would result in the full wrath and violence allowable to the system and the state. Many lost their lives in that manner.

That system of state violence by necessity had to sanction all other forms of violence against those under-dogs of the underdogs who did not know their place and rank in that dog eat dog world also. This – as a trade off – allowed or tolerated black men perpetrating all forms of violence against their women.  So within a violent system, sub-systems of oppression and subjugation flourished. The black man who was picked upon and dominated at his work place, went home and beat up his wife and children. It was not uncommon for groups of young men to frequent parties where girls and young women were targeted for gang rapes. Reporting these abuses were futile – for the attitude was that the woman was looking for it. Boys saw that this was how a man behaved, and now, that they are grown men themselves, are perpetuating their this “culture” in their own homes, relationships and society. Unfortunately, no women or girl can be sure that her male friends will not rape or kill her – should she join them for a drink as in the case of Melody Urikhos murdered by her supposed friend.

This time, the person on the other side of the line argues, it is because the majority of men are disempowered and marginalised socially and economically and that this is one of the reasons why men are raping and killing. However, while I agree wholeheartedly that it is WRONG that the majority of people in this country are excluded from participating and benefitting from the wealth that clearly exists in this country, I refuse to see this as a significant contributing factor to the spate of killings, rape and disrespect that seems to be so rife in this society. For if this argument is true, women should also feature significantly as perpetrators (at least towards children and the elderly – who in the “grander” scheme of things are even more marginalised than we are). Also, one would then not expect any form of gender-based violence among the “haves” of this country. How would one then explain Selma Shaimemanya’s murder in which Lazarus Shaduka is implicated?

No, unfortunately I think there is something fundamentally wrong in Namibia. We have allowed a culture of sexism and hate to become the dominant culture. Just like racism is maintained through the indiscriminate use of violence by one population group against another, so the pillars that uphold sexism are also violence, subjugation, and robbing women of our basic right to respect and dignity.