Namibia Announces Special Court in Response to #ShutItDown Protests

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 Windhoek's Central Business District, in Windhoek, Namibia, on October 9, 2020.

Photo by HILDEGARD TITUS/AFP via Getty Images

Namibia Announces Special Court in Response to #ShutItDown Protests

Namibian Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has announced the establishment of a special court to deal with sexual and gender-based violence but protestors are skeptical and continue to call for further action.

According to eNCA, Namibian Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila has announced that the government will establish a special court for dealing with sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) cases. This follows the massive #ShutItDown protests that have been ongoing for two weeks now in the country. The protests were sparked by the reported news of a 22-year-old Namibian woman, Shannon Wasserfall, who was allegedly murdered at the hands of her boyfriend. Daisry Mathias, a presidential youth advisor, and representatives of the #ShutItDown protests were all part of the recent meeting with President Hage Geingob and Kuugongelwa-Amadhila. All parties briefed media after the controversial closed-door meeting. However, protestors have responded with skepticism and called the meeting non-transparent.

The #ShutItDown protests started on October 8th and had specifically called for the resignation of Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Doreen Sioka, following her failure to adequately respond to the rising number of SGBV cases of. Sioka allegedly failed to meet with protestors and activists earlier in the year concerning women's right to abortion. Roused with anger from Wasserfall's murder, youth took to the Namibian capital of Windhoek to demonstrate against inaction towards gender-based crimes. Young female protestors called out Namibia's stringent laws which pervasively police women's bodies. After the #ShutItDown protests continued into their second week, the presidential cabinet subsequently responded through the Prime Minister.

"We share in the repugnance of the Namibian public at the situation of SGBV and are in full agreement with the public that this situation cannot be allowed to continue," the prime minister said in a statement announcing the establishment of the courts."

The special court has largely been rejected. Civil organisation group, the IAANA.Community, has put forward calls for a sexual offenders registry that will will reportedly be tabled in parliament. While Namibia is one of the few African countries with young members of parliament, this special court announcement proves the general tone-deafness of governments when it comes to tackling gender-based violence.

Namibians have responded with mixed reactions to news of the special court.