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Cablegate: Status of Women in the Sadc Region:

R 051503Z JUN 96
FM AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2093
INFO AMEMBASSY LILONGWE
AMEMBASSY MBABANE
AMEMBASSY PRETORIA
AMEMBASSY PORT LOUIS
AMEMBASSY LUANDA
AMEMBASSY MASERU
AMEMBASSY DAR ES SALAAM
AMEMBASSY HARARE
AMEMBASSY LUSAKA
AMEMBASSY MAPUTO
AMEMBASSY GABORONE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WINDHOEK 001695


DEPT FOR AF/S, AF/RA,

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SOCI KWMN SADC WA
SUBJECT: STATUS OF WOMEN IN THE SADC REGION:
NAMIBIA

REF: STATE 112270

1. FOLLOWING IS IN RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS POSED
REFTEL.


WOMEN AND THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS
------------------------------

2. THE NAMIBIAN CONSTITUTION IS VERY PROGRESSIVE
IN GUARANTEEING FUNDAMENTAL FREEDOMS TO ALL
CITIZENS. IN ADDITIONAL TO GENERAL GUARANTEES OF
LIFE, LIBERTY, RESPECT FOR HUMAN DIGNITY AND
FREEDOM FROM DISCRIMINATION, ARTICLE 23 SUBSECTION
(3) DEALING WITH APARTHEID AND AFFIRMATIVE ACTION,
MAKES SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE NEED TO PROMOTE
GENDER EQUALITY AND STATES, "IT SHALL BE
PERMISSIBLE TO HAVE REGARD TO THE FACT THAT WOMEN
IN NAMIBIA HAVE TRADITIONALLY SUFFERED SPECIAL
DISCRIMINATION AND THAT THEY NEED TO BE ENCOURAGED
AND ENABLED TO PLAY A FULL, EQUAL AND EFFECTIVE
ROLE IN THE POLITICAL, SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND
CULTURAL LIFE OF THE NATION."

3. WITH THE PASSAGE OF THE MARRIED PERSONS
EQUALITY ACT EARLIER THIS YEAR, PARLIAMENT, WITH
THE STRONG SUPPORT OF PRESIDENT NUJOMA, IS
ATTEMPTING TO BRING NAMIBIAN LAWS INTO COMPLIANCE
WITH CONSTITUTIONAL GUARANTEES. WHILE THE ACT
ELIMINATES DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES IN CIVIL
MARRIAGES, WOMEN MARRIED UNDER CUSTOMARY LAW ARE
OFTEN SUBJECT TO DISCRIMINATION. ALL TOO
FREQUENTLY, WHEN CUSTOMARY PRACTICES ARE IN
CONFLICT WITN MODERN STATUTES, CUSTOMARY PRACTICES
PREVAIL, PARTICULARLY IN THE RURAL AREAS. AT A
RECENT NATIONAL CONFERENCE ON TRADITIONAL
AUTHORITIES, GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS MADE IT CLEAR
THAT CUSTOMARY LAWS WHICH ARE INCONSISTENT WITH
PROVISIONS OF THE NAMIBIAN CONSTITUTION OR MODERN
STATUTES WOULD BE INVALID. HOWEVER, PRACTICES IN
THE RURAL AREAS ARE SLOW TO CHANGE. FOR EXAMPLE,
IT IS COMMON FOR A WOMAN MARRIED UNDER CUSTOMARY
LAW TO HAVE HER HOUSE AND POSSESSIONS SEIZED BY
HER HUSBAND'S FAMILY IF THE HUSBAND PASSES AWAY.
OFTEN THE WOMEN IS THROWN OUT OF THE HOUSE AND
LEFT TO FEND FOR HERSELF. THE GOVERNMENT HAS
CONDEMNED THIS PRACTICE, BUT IT STILL CONTINUES.
WOMEN ACTIVISTS AND SOCIAL RESEARCHERS IN NAMIBIA,
ENCOURAGED BY THE PASSAGE OF THE MARRIED PERSON'S
EQUALITY ACT, ARE NOW LOOKING AT WAYS OF ATTACKING
THE PROBLEM OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
MARRIED UNDER CUSTOMARY LAW.

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GOVERNMENT SUPPORT FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE
BEIJING PLAN OF ACTION
--------------------------------------------- -----
4. TNE NAMIBIAN GOVERNMENT IS FIRMLY COMMITTED TO
IMPLEMENTING THE BEIJING PLAN OF ACTION AND THE
HEAD OF NAMIBIA'S DELEGATION TO THE CONFERENCE,
MS. NETUMBO NDAITWAH WAS RECENTLY ELEVATED TO THE
POST OF SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE RULING SWAPO
PARTY. MS. NDAITWAH SERVED AS RAPPORTEUR GENERAL
AT THE BEIJING CONFERENCE AND PLAYED AN ACTIVE
ROLE IN FORGING COMPROMISES ON SEVERAL KEY ISSUES.
SHE IS STRONGLY AND FERVENTLY COMMITTED TO
ELIMINATING ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST
WOMEN, INCREASING THE NUMBER OF WOMEN IN
PARLIAMENT, AND IMPLEMENTING THE BEIJING PLAN OF
ACTION. PRESIDENT NUJOMA HAS BEEN OUT FRONT AND
VOCAL IN SUPPORT OF THE MARRIED PERSONS EQUALITY
BILL AND FREQUENTLY CITES THE ROLE WOMEN PLAYED IN
THE LIBERATION STRUGGLE IN PRESSING FOR THE
ELIMINATION OF PRACTICES WHICH DISCRIMINATE
AGAINST WOMEN.


POST INITIATIVES TO SUPPORT GENDER EQUALITY AND
CURB SEXUAL VIOLENCE
--------------------------------------------- -----
5. AS REPORTED PREVIOUSLY, THIS MISSION IS
TARGETING ALL DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS FUNDS
(116E) THIS YEAR IN SUPPORT OF NAMIBIAN WOMEN'S
ORGANIZATIONS SEEKING TO COUNTER THE GROWING
PROBLEM OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND
CHILDREN. WITH RAPE AND ASSAULTS AGAINST WOMEN
AND CHILDREN AT RECORD LEVELS IN NAMIBIA, MISSION
IS ASSISTING WOMEN'S ORGANIZATIONS IN DEVELOPING A
NATIONAL MULTI-MEDIA CAMPAIGN TO CURB SEXUAL
VIOLENCE AND STRENGTHEN SENTENCING OF CONVICTED
RAPISTS AND THOSE GUILTY OF ASSAULTING WOMEN AND
CHILDREN. IN ADDITION, EMBASSY SELF-HELP
COMMITTEE RECENTLY APPROVED FUNDING FOR TWO
COMMUNITY PROJECTS IN WHICH LOCAL CITIZENS HAVE
GOTTEN TOGETHER TO ESTABLISH SAFE HOUSES FOR
ABUSED WOMEN.

6. USIS HAS LENT ITS SUPPORT TO THE OVERALL
EFFORT TO CURB SEXUAL VIOLENCE BY BROADCASTING A
WORLDNET PROGRAM DEALING WITH THE ISSUE OF
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND INVITING LOCAL JOURNALISTS
TO THE EVENT. ARTICLES ON THE EVENT IN LOCAL
NEWSPAPERS BROUGNT ADDITIONAL PUBLIC ATTENTION TO
THE WORLDWIDE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL VIOLENCE.

7. IN ADDITION, A VISIT TO WINDHOEK EARLIER THIS
YEAR BY HIGH STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIALS WAS USED
TO BRING ATTENTION TO THE PROBLEMS OF SEXUAL
VIOLENCE AND AIDS. PDAS BUSHNELL AND AF/S BLANEY
VISITED A CENTER FOR ABUSED WOMEN AND CHILDREN AND
THE VISIT, ALONG WITH A BRIEFING PROVIDED BY LOCAL
POLICE OFFICIALS TO US OFFICIALS AND INVITED MEDIA
REGARDING THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL ABUSE, RECEIVED
WIDE COVERAGE IN THE NATIONAL MEDIA. THIS GROWING
ATTENTION FOCUSED ON THE PROBLEM OF SEXUAL
VIOLENCE LED TO A CALL RECENTLY BY THE PRIME
MINISTER FOR LONGER PRISON SENTENCES FOR THOSE
CONVICTED OF SEXUAL ASSAULTS AGAINST WOMEN AND
CHILDREN.

8. JUST LAST WEEK THE SENIOR LEGAL ADVISER IN THE
ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE REQUESTED ASSISTANCE IN
OBTAINING COPIES OF U.S. SENTENCING COMMISSION
GUIDELINES AND OTHER RELEVANT PORTIONS OF THE
VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT OF 1994. SHE HAS
REQUESTED THIS INFORMATION TO ASSIST THE AG'S
OFFICE IN PREPARING A VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT
FOR NAMIBIA.

9. THIS MISSION, THROUGH A COORDINATED APPROACH
UTILIZING 116E FUNDS, SELF HELP MONIES, USIS
PROGRAMMING AND ATTENDANCE BY EMBOFFS AT WOMEN'S
EVENTS FROM GENDER SECTORAL COMMITTEE MEETINGS, TO
THE LAUNCH OF THE NAMIBIA MEDIA WOMEN'S
ORGANIZATION AND SPORTS EVENTS FOR WOMEN, HAS NOT
ONLY THE DEMONSTRATED THE US GOVERNMENT'S INTEREST
IN ELIMINATING ALL FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST
WOMEN BUT ALSO OUR DESIRE TO USE HUMAN RIGHTS AND
OTHER FUNDS AT OUR DISPOSAL TO ASSIST NAMIBIAN
WOMEN IN TURNING THE CORNER ON THE ALARMING
NATIONAL PROBLEMS OF RAPE, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND
SEXUAL ASSAULTS ON CHILDREN.


MCCALLIE

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