RAPE JUST A ‘BEDROOM ISSUE’ SAYS SWAPO LEADER AS CONVICTED RAPIST GETS PARTY JOB

Secretary General of Swapo, Namibia’s governing party, appears to have been napping as women around the world stepped up to demand tough measures from their political leaders against gender-based violence.

Sophia Shaningwa, who serves in Swapo’s upper echelon of party officials, left her party’s feminist wing in a state of shock when she dismissed concerns about appointing a convicted rapist to serve on the party’s policy advisory and research body.

“It is really below the belt that you want me to discuss bedroom stories,” the senior official said with apparent irritation.

“Never should you come back to me asking me about bedroom stories. I don’t discuss those types of things,” Shaningwa said to The Namibian newspaper.

President Hage Geingob also seemed at a loss for words. Unable to explain the appointment of convicted rapist Vincent Likoro to Swapo’s new think tank, he called it “a Swapo thing”, which should be addressed through a press conference at the party’s head office.

The convicted rapist, Victor Likoro, had been prosecuted on two counts of rape following an incident at a lodge in the Zambezi region during the night of July 6-7. 2013. According to Likoro, he had consensual sex with a colleague that night, while the complainant said he raped her.

Likoro denied guilt on the two charges, but was found guilty on one charge and acquitted on the other in January 2016. He was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment at the end of his trial.

Appealing his conviction, Likoro was freed on bail in May 2016 but was returned to jail in December when the appeal was denied. He has been in prison since then.

Sister Namibia, a feminist non-governmental organization, condemned both Shaningwa and President Hage Geingob for not treating Likoro’s rape conviction with more gravity.

The organization said this reflects that sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) is treated flippantly in Namibia.

“Sophia Shaningwa is betraying Namibian women, and so is our president. You can’t say we should all have ‘zero tolerance’ for gender-based violence, while you literally tolerate gender-based violence and arguably even celebrate it by appointing convicted rapists to top public positions,” a spokesperson for the group said.

Gender activist Ndiilokelwa Nthengwe called the party responses “insensitive” especially of victims of Sexual and Gender Based Violence (SGBV)

Nthengwe, who was also a leader in a series of protests last year demanding action from the government against the rising incidence of SGBV, said the statements also demonstrate that the government regards SGBV as a trivial issue.

“People don’t believe victims when they report cases of SGBV-related crimes or rape.

“It seems kind of crass, because if you’re looking at the statistics and you’re looking at their actions to appoint a convicted rapist . . . If you can say this about one rape convict, what do they think about other rape convicts across the country?” she said.

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