Vulnerable witnesses should be protected
The Right Hon. Prime Minister on 22 February delivered a keynote statement at the Hilton hotel at a workshop that was dedicated to specialised training to address challenges that Namibian courts experience on an extremely sensitive matter, namely eliciting and understanding evidence given by children in domestic violence cases.
The PM delivered her key statement by quoting the “Behind Closed Doors: The Impact of Domestic Violence on Children” published by UNICEF and the Body Shop. The quote read ‘For too many children, home is far from a safe haven. Every year, hundreds of millions of children are exposed to domestic violence at home, and this has a powerful and profound impact on their lives and hopes for the future. These children not only watch one parent violently assaulting another, they often hear the distressing sounds of violence, or may be aware of it from many tell-tale signs.’
“The ‘Behind Closed Doors’ UNICEF report from which I quoted a while ago reminds us that children have the right to a home environment that is safe and secure, and free of violence, and that governments must carry a primary responsibility for ensuring that children and women are safe and secure in their homes,” said Hon. Kuugongelwa-Amadhila.
With regard to the initiatives to help court proceedings on child witnesses of domestic violence and make witnessing less distressing, particular procedures will be employed which will be dealt with by experts that attended the workshop.
It was further added that the Office of the Prime Minister is in regular touch with the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare regarding the development of a gender-based violence database. Eye-catching newspaper campaigns are run and civic education is conducted by Government and civic society, including the Young Women Against Gender-Based Violence Association, on various sub-themes of domestic violence throughout the regions.
The Combating of Domestic Violence Act 4 of 2003. Since then domestic violence was recognised as a serious crime against the individual and society. As such, the Namibian Police treats domestic violence incidents in the same manner as other serious crimes.
The Criminal Procedure Act, 1977 was amended in 2003 to include provisions for the protection of vulnerable witnesses. The protection afforded in terms of the law makes it possible for a court dealing with a vulnerable witness to make any necessary arrangements for the protection of a vulnerable witness the Prime Minister noted.