Photo by HILDEGARD TITUS/AFP via Getty Images

A protester holds a placard during the second day of the #ShutItDown Protests, where hundreds of Namibian youth protested against gender-based violence by shutting down Windhoeks Central Business District, in Windhoek, Namibia, on October 9, 2020

#ShutItDown: Ongoing Namibian Protests Call for End to Gender-Based Violence

#ShutItDown protests in Namibia have called for the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka, to step down following the murder of 22-year-old Shannon Wasserfall.

According to EWN, Namibian youth have been charging the country with protests dubbed #ShutItDown since last week Friday. This follows the discovery of a missing woman's body not far from her house in Walvis Bay this past Tuesday. In April of this year, 22-year-old Shannon Wasserfall went missing. More recently, a body with her personal clothing was found. University students and high school girls have been demonstrating outside government buildings for the Namibian government to take action. Calls for the resignation of Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka, have been mounting. The peaceful #ShutItDown protests have, however, been violently dispersed with teargas and the reported manhandling of protestors.

READ: Nigeria Declares 'State of Emergency' on Rape

Wasserfall's cousin is reportedly one of the organisers at the forefront of the ongoing #ShutItDown demonstrations. She explained in an interview with BBC radio that police were slow to respond to her cousin's disappearance in April. The boyfriend allegedly reported Wasserfall missing and was subsequently arrested upon the discovery of the body. Wasserfall's body was allegedly found in Walvis Bay not too far from her home. "This points to the police's incompetence," Wasserfall's cousin stated in the interview.

The rates of rape and sexual harassment have increased in Namibia with 200 cases of gender-based violence recorded every month. Women, children and members of the LGBTQIA+ community are adversely affected. Namibian youth have grown increasingly frustrated with the police's lack of action in response to these cases. Protestors then marched to parliament where they were met by armed police in helmets and shields.

Protestors have called for the Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka, to step down amid the #ShutItDown protests. Sioka allegedly holds regressive religious beliefs on abortion and women's rights. Abortion is still not legal in the Southern African country. Sioka's religious stance clashes with progressive women's movements which have been taking place across Africa.

Gender Based-Violence and particularly sexual gender-based violence has become a deep-seated crisis in Africa. Nigeria recently called for the castration of child rapists while the Liberian government declared rape a national emergency after mounting pressure from public protests. Similarly, Namibian protestors have called on President Hage Geingob to follow suit.


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