By: Tjizouye Kazombungo
The justice minister Yvonne Dausab said there is no doubt that there has been an increase in sexual offences in Namibia over the years.
Dausab presented a discussion paper on Monday on establishing a sex offenders’ register.
In the paper, the minister said from 2019 to 2021, about 1 566 children were sexually violated. She also noted round 883 were physically abused.
“One cannot overemphasise the importance of consultation in this process because the republic of Namibia is a democratic nation,” said Dausab.
She also said some of the statistics paint a concerning picture – for instance, from January to August 2021, there have been 690 cases of rape reported.
The minister further said the process should be guided by principles of the rule of law and respect for fundamental human rights.
However, the minister said several essential considerations needed to be made to ensure that the introduction of sex offenders register is in line with the existing legal policy and administrative framework.
According to her, one must consider fundamental human rights, the right to equality, dignity, the freedom of movement, freedom to practice any profession or trade and the right to privacy.
Consequently, she said several rights could be impacted by establishing a sex offenders register.
These are namely the right to equality, the right to dignity, the freedom of movement, freedom to settle anywhere, freedom to practice any profession or trade, the right to privacy.
“The information about the offender recorded in the register may be extensive and can include their address and appearance. The fact that other people have access to this information amounts to an intrusion into their privacy and personal life,” said Dausab.
Lawyer Nafimane Halweendo said the sexual offences register informs the public about previously convicted sexual offends, the nature of the sexual offence, the type of punishment they had been given, and their sentences.
He further said it is essential to alert vulnerable members of the community, especially women and children, and allow members to organise themselves and make an informed decision about whether they want such a person around their children.
“The benefits offenders register with implications to the public. He said the public would know who previously was convicted of sexual offends, which would allow the public to regulate their affairs properly.
“Yes, when it comes to sentencing and justice system, there is space for a genuine offender who wants reform genuinely and integrates back to the society. So the opposite of the coin may be reformative justice and allowing people who had been previously convicted of sexual offences to pay their debt to society. Because once you are sentenced to prison, you are paying off a debt to the community. After that, you must be allowed to reintegrate back into society,” Nafimane told The Villager.
Nafimane further stressed that the ministry of justice would have to consider that there are juvenile offenders in Namibia.
“We have a serious situation whereby there has been less sexual education, especially among the young people. But then you will find a person at the age of 17 committing a sexual violation; how should that person be placed on the sexual offenders’ register while this person is at high school or university?
Is that the purpose of the law coming into effect to ruin the life of a young person who is not yet mature?”
He quizzed whether minor offenders would be placed on a sex offenders’ register before finishing high school or university.
“At the same time, you have to look at the victim. If the victim has to endure the effect of crime, the criminal also has to be punished.”
“Some human rights activists say the powers to place people on a sex offenders’ register should lie within the government. Of course, that is obvious you can’t have any other organisations doing that,” said Nafimane.