In the past—and to a large extent still—gender-based violence (GBV) has been equated with the issue of violence against women (VAW). Today however, a broader interpretation is more common. Human Rights Watch defines GBV as ‘violence directed at an individual, male or female, based on his or her specific gender role in society’. This definition allows for recognition that men/boys also suffer from violence directed at them due to their socially determined roles and the expectations of them linked to norms about masculinity. By not equating GBV with VAW, the specific nature of GBV as violence perpetrated against individuals as a result of socially ascribed gender differences between males and females becomes central.
Although the roles of perpetrator and victim are not dependent on sex, due to prevailing oppressive gender relations and women’s subordinate status, women and girls are much more likely than men and boys to be victims of sexual violence in all parts of the world.
Causes of gender-based violence include unequal power relations, the low status of women, customs, traditions and beliefs, illiteracy and limited education. Examples of GBV in Namibia include domestic violence, rape and other forms of sexual abuse, sexual harassment at work and school, some forms of human trafficking, forced prostitution and early marriages. GBV also encompasses certain harmful traditional practices, such as when a widow is deprived of the property she shared with her husband.
The two most common forms of gender-based violence in Namibia are rape and domestic violence, both of which disproportionately affect Namibian women more than men. Domestic violence has a significant impact on Namibian children as well. Children in abusive homes are more likely to be abused themselves and children exposed to abusive relationships may be more likely to become abusers themselves later in life. Stalking, emotional abuse, sexual exploitation, and threats of violence are also linked to gender-based violence.