By: Justicia Shipena
There is controversy among Namibia activists on the practice of Otjiramue cultural practice adverting rape crime in Namibia.
This follows after, Omaheke regional councillor, Peter Kazongominja, submitted to the National Council on Monday that the culture of Otjiramue could be the answer to the scourge of rape in Namibia.
Otjiramue is a practice among the Ovaherero community which allows the children of a brother and sister to get married or engage in sexual activity.
“Otjiramue is also trying to help that we should not commit these crimes because there is a lot that I can look at, that I am assured (of). So, I do not have the need to go back to unnecessary things because the tjiramues are there, and some of them are very pretty so that I can look at them,” Kazongominja said in his submission to the rape amendment bill.
The combatting of domestic violence and combatting of rape amendment bills are currently being debated in the National Assembly with submissions from PDM’s member of parliament Elma Dienda that rape does not exist in marriage which also received wild criticism.
In his submission, Kazongominja also urged the council members to turn to the Lord and ask that they not be part of the crime of rape while describing it as ‘evil’.
“This is an evil that is inherited in men. Counselling of these crimes should also be across the board. Let us counsel ourselves, move away from this practice, and try to see what we can do,” he said.
Human rights activist Rosa Namises has come out to say that Kazongominja does not have enough information about the topic at hand.
Namises said in the Otjiramue practice, child marriage is rife, and rape is also present, which does not seem to solve anything.
“If they go further and say the women in Otjiramues are not raped, they are being made to be silent. They cannot speak because Otjiramue practice has been given over generations, and women have come to normalise that. Therefore women are not speaking up against rape, if it is child rape or child marriage. That is their practice,” she explained.
She argues that Namibia cannot introduce something done over the years to own the Namibian women, stressing that women have choices.
“Namibian women have choices! They know who they want to love and go out with. If that was something women wanted, they would have done it all over this country,” Namises adds.
She then pressed that the political leader ( Kazongominja) must better inform himself about what women want and what is women’s preferences regarding relationships.
In this vein, Nasises concludes that she is not convinced that the practice of Otjiramue will stop the raping in the country.
“If Otjiramue is the one, then the babies that are raped and elderly women and boys raped have nothing to do with an Otjiramue solution. It is about the men taking charge of their sexual lust and addressing it as such.”
Gender and media researcher and Namibia broadcasting corporation (NBC) chief commercial officer Umbi Karuaihe-Upi questioned how Otjiramue would advert rape.
Karuaihe-Upi said the councillor has no scientific base for the comment and that a proper study must be done to make a statement.
“That is maybe just an educated guess. It is just a hypothesis, but is it proven? When I hear what he is saying, it is just a hypothesis. I cannot tell if it is true because no research has been done to prove it. This argument of the hon councillor is not proven, and there must be proper research,” she said.
Herero culture writer Kae Matundu-Tjiparuro says one needs to understand what Otjiramue is while agreeing with Karuaihe-Upi that resolving rape with Otjiramue is unproven.
“This is simplifying a crime of rape because what are the root causes of rape that it can be reduced by Otjiramue practice as a solution. It can be complex because why do people rape in the first place? It is a complex thing that cannot be answered by Otjiramue only. That is a very simplistic view,” argues Matundu-Tjiparuro.
Meanwhile, activist Julius Nantangwe lamented that Namibians are reactionists and don’t interrogate things properly, adding that maybe Kazongominja has a point and Otjiramue can be a solution to rape crimes, including gender-based violence.
“Imagine you being married to your cousin. Do you think you will take a panga and cut your cousin because she has done wrong? But don’t you think it is easier for families to come together and sit couples down?” he questioned.
“Maybe a new discussion should come up, and people should practice their cultures. I see the councillor is now being victimised, but we don’t interrogate things. If a practice has been don’t and worked before us, I see nothing wrong with it.”
Nantangwe added the current generation is destroying systems that have worked for ages by replacing them with nothing.
“If what we have put in place is working, why are these things against us?”
Furthermore, he said a discussion should be opened so people can see the other perspective.
“We are western colonised, and everything you look at as African is deemed wrong, but it is not true, and that is not the case. When you look at the Himba community, this is the only true tribe that is left that we can learn from as Africans. We always see them as uncivilised, but when you look at a Himba person, how many cases have you heard of a Himba man killing his wife in a so “uncivilised” society? Also, how many rape cases did you come from there?” he further questions.
The OvaHimba people are indigenous people with an estimated population of about 50 000 living in northern Namibia, in the Kunene region.
Nantangwe also said Namibia failed drastically from a legal perspective and regarding relationships.