Fast facts

Total population: 2.58 million

Internet penetration rate: 1.37 million users

State bodies tasked with tackling GBV: Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication, and Social Welfare | Ministry of Justice | Ministry of Health and Social Services | Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies | Standing Committee on Gender Equality, Social Developments and Family Affairs | Standing Committee on Information, Communication, Technology and Innovation

A portal to enable and empower

A portal to enable and empower

Overview of GBV in Namibia

Over the past decade, Namibia has displayed the political will to foster gender equality and prioritise gender mainstreaming in government. As a demonstration of Namibia’s standing on gender parity, in 2021, it ranked 6th out of 156 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index – the highest ranking for an African state. This index, collated and published by the World Economic Forum, tracks gender gaps and highlights emerging trends in the labour market as well as society at large. In 2023, it dropped down slightly to 8th place but has still retained its status as the highest-ranking African state in terms of its global parity. Namibia has also achieved full parity on both the Health and Survival and Educational Attainment subindexes, although their levels of attainment are low for both women and men.

From a national policy perspective, and in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 5 calling for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, the country developed a National Gender Policy for the 2010 – 2020 period in 2010. The policy sought to ensure that every sector of the economy emphasises the importance of gender and empowerment. In terms of more recent developments, in 2019 a National Task Team adopted its first National Action Plan (NAP) for Women, Peace, and Security for the period 2019-2024. Several ministries, UN technical advisors, and civil society organisations were included in the development process of the NAP through consultative meetings. Namibia’s NAP builds on the country’s National Gender Policy (2010-2020). The NAP is also seen as complementary to the other mechanisms and frameworks developed to advance women’s rights in Namibia. The overarching goal of the NAP is to create “a safe and peaceful Namibia where all women, men, girls, and boys have equal rights and live without fear or want and in dignity”. The NAP includes a detailed implementation matrix, which incorporates a budget estimate to implement the plan.

Despite the aforementioned progress, civil society is of the view that there has not been a concrete enough shift towards gender equality. For all of Namibia’s robust legal framework and its plans and policies on gender, civil society laments that “The plans exist, but they are not being put into action.”

Pregnancy rates among minors is a persistent challenge in Namibia. Shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic, Djaffar Moussa-Elkadhum, the UNESCO representative to Namibia, declared that early and unintended pregnancies affect almost one-fifth of Namibian teenage girls with at least 40% of pregnancies a result of rape. Under the Abortion and Sterilization Act of 1975, abortions are only permitted in a few case,  for example when pregnancy is the result of rape, incest, when it is thought to pose a serious threat to the physical and mental health of the pregnant person, or where there is a serious risk that the child would be born with physical and/or mental disabilities. As a result, baby dumping is prevalent in private and public locations. According to police statistics, more than 234 newborns were found abandoned between 2016 and 2022. The issue has become so widespread that in 2019, the country decriminalised the abandonment of newborns in designated safe spaces.

On a broader note, public perception around violence against women raises cause for concern. In April 2022, research published by Afrobarometer indicated that Namibians see GBV as the most important women’s-rights issue that the government and society must address. This echoes the calls of feminist activists in October 2020, who took to Namibian streets to protest the rise in GBV cases, in particular, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking forward, an important facet of this renewed commitment to tackling GBV should address online harms. As it develops its proposed cybercrimes and data protection legislation, Namibian law and policy creators should not disregard OGBV.

Holding those in power to account

Holding those in power to account

Laws, policies, and resources relating to GBV in Namibia

According to UN Women’s Global Database on Violence against Women, the statistics for different forms of violence in Namibia are as follows:

  • lifetime physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence is at 26.7%,
  • physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence in the last 12 months is at 20.2%,
  • lifetime non-partner sexual violence statistics are not available, and
  • child marriage stands at 6.9%.

Additionally, the Violence Against Children and Youth in Namibia 2019 Survey found that 15% of women aged 18-24 experienced pressured or forced sex when they were 13 years old or younger, 45% experienced this between the ages of 14 and 15, and 39% between 16 and 17 years old.

In 2019, the Namibia National Human Development Report noted that the two most common forms of GBV in Namibia are rape and domestic violence, both of which disproportionately affect women. The National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (2019) notes that “Gender-based violence… [has its] roots in gender-based inequalities, gender stereotypes, patriarchal social norms and attitudes and harmful cultural practices.” Namibia’s country report to the United Nations under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women also noted unequal power social relations, alcohol abuse, early marriages, unemployment, and family history as some of the issues that exacerbate GBV in Namibia. 

The Organization for World Peace reports that SGBV, particularly intimate partner violence and femicide, is a significant issue in Namibia. The police received at least 200 cases of domestic violence per month, with over 1,600 cases of rape reported in an 18-month period ending in June 2020. Lockdown measures during the COVID-19 pandemic also exacerbated the challenges faced by victims of domestic violence who were forced to self-isolate with their abusers. Police recorded almost 6000 GBV cases nationally in the year ending September 2020 (the highest rates being in the central Khomas region, with the largest population) including 896 rape cases and 74 gender-based killings.

A study by the Legal Assistance Centre reveals that domestic violence perpetrated by intimate partners is the most studied form of gender-based violence in Windhoek, Namibia. The majority of victims are women (86%), and the perpetrators are predominantly men (93%). The study also highlights high rates of physical and sexual violence by both intimate partners and non-partners.

Cultural acceptance of GBV contributes to its prevalence, with a concerning proportion of men and women justifying GBV. According to Namibia’s 2021 County Policy and Information Note, 28% of women and 22% of men in Namibia believe that a husband beating his wife as a form of discipline is justifiable. These beliefs perpetuate gender inequality, which seeps into the workplace and other social settings.

COVID-19 also played a role in the increase in GBV cases. The rise in GBV cases in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country led to the October 2020 demonstrations #ShutItAllDown protests, which took place outside government buildings and called on the government to take GBV and femicide in Namibia more seriously.  The protests were further triggered by a series of high-profile cases of assaults on women and girls. The peaceful #ShutItDown protests were violently dispersed with teargas by the police, which led to continued public protests across several regions and towns. The protesters submitted a petition to the Speaker of the National Assembly which called on authorities to:

  • declare a state of emergency over SGBV
  • consult with SGBV experts to tackle the problem
  • prioritise the urgent review of sentencing laws for sex offenders and murderers, and
  • compel the resignation of Doreen Sioka, Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication, and Social Welfare.

Unfortunately, violence against individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community is still under-examined in Namibia as this falls outside of the scope of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act which makes no provisions for sexual minorities.


While the internet has provided a broader space to share ideas and voice opinions, it has facilitated OGBV which has directly contributed to widening the digital divide in Namibia.  One concerning issue is the dissemination of intimate or sexual images online. Indigenous women, particularly OvaHimba and KhoiSan, have also been disproportionately affected by online image misuse, perpetuating cyber misogyny and reinforcing patriarchal norms.

Namibia has no specific laws criminalising online abuse – the Cybercrime Bill has been slow to progress and has been critiqued on various grounds. The Namibian Police Service and the Gender-Based Violence Investigation Units have had little to no training on gendered ICT-based violence. Additionally, the use of pseudonyms on social media platforms makes it challenging to hold cyberbullies accountable. Local laws lack fines or penalties, such as community work or imprisonment, for repeat offenders. Lastly, social media platforms, being non-Namibian and non-African, may not fully understand or address local issues.

In a June 2022 presentation to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, Minister Sioka noted that Namibia mitigated the impact of GBV under COVID-19 by strengthening support services for survivors of domestic violence and developing a response plan for GBV and violence against children. According to the Minister, this enabled women and girls to report any cases to the nearest police stations or through helplines, in order to access counselling and psychosocial treatment. In her response to protesters’ petition to the National Assembly, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa Amadhila identified several measures to strengthen the policy and legal environment to deal with GBV, including the establishment of a sex offenders’ register and special courts to handle sexual and GBV offences, a review of sentencing laws for sex offenders, and an investigation into the expedition of current murder and sexual offences before the courts.

In 2015, the former Director of ICT in the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology, Henry Kassen, addressed the media and noted that the Ministry would provide legal remedies aimed at punishing those found posting insensitive content, especially graphic images of GBV victims. He was referring to the Electronic Transaction and Cybercrime Bill at that time, which has since been revised and unbundled into two separate laws. According to Kassen, the Cybercrime Bill, once enacted into law, will allow parties to apply for defamatory content to be removed from internet sites to prevent further publication.

In 2017, the then Deputy Minister of Gender Equality and Child Welfare, Lucia Witbooi, condemned the practice of publishing image-based sexual abuse materials, referring to intimate videos that were posted on social media platforms after couples broke up. The Ministry of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare also has awareness campaigns on GBV and Trafficking in Persons

The Minister of Justice, Yvonne Dausab, voiced concern during an interview in 2020 that with more Namibians becoming active on social media, cyberbullying was increasingly becoming a worrying trend. She particularly expressed alarm about “revenge porn” and called for progressive ways to end this phenomenon.

Despite the public pronouncements by senior members of the government and politicians, the laws that have been passed or are in draft format have not recognised online violence against women (OVAW) as an issue requiring urgent attention.


Under the Namibian Constitution, “no persons may be discriminated against on the grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, religion, creed or social or economic status.” The Constitution also safeguards the right to protection of life, liberty, and respect for human dignity. Further, Article 23(3) provides that in the enactment of laws and policies to advance persons within Nambia who have been socially, economically or educationally disadvantaged, the “special discrimination” faced by women must be considered.

This Act contains a broad, gender-neutral definition of rape which covers a range of sexual acts committed in “coercive circumstances”.  It relies on proof of coercion rather than the absence of consent within court cases.  The Act also defines marital rape as an offence in the eyes of the law.  Furthermore, it sets stiff minimum sentences for rape.

This Act protects against various types of domestic violence, covering physical violence, sexual abuse, harassment, intimidation, economic abuse, and psychological abuse. It classifies existing crimes between persons in a domestic relationship as “domestic violence offences” and encourages input from victim-survivors of these offences on bail and sentencing.

The purpose of this Act is to prohibit harm inflicted on children including the following forms of abuse: the assault of a child; sexual abuse of a child or allowing a child to be sexually abused; exploitation of a child through a labour practice; exposure or subjection of a child to behaviour that may harm the child psychologically or emotionally, including intimidation or threats; the deprivation of a child of his or her rights to the basic conditions of living; and the exposure or subjection a child to a social, cultural or religious practice which is detrimental to his or her well-being.

This Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex and sexual harassment in the workplace. The Act defines sexual harassment as any inappropriate behaviour of a sexual nature directed towards an employee that creates a barrier to equal opportunities in the workplace.


National Action Plan (NAP) for Women, Peace, and Security 2019 -2024:

The NAP aims to ensure equal rights and dignity for all, addressing women’s roles as both actors and victims in conflict and non-conflict situations. It prioritises women’s participation in political, security, and civil society decision-making, prevention of violence against women and children, and protection against gender-based violence. The plan’s main focus is on human security challenges, gender equality, and women’s involvement in peace negotiations.


 The Act empowers law enforcement officials to conduct interception and surveillance of communications as part of their investigations, with the assistance of telecommunications companies and internet service providers.  A report by the World Web Foundation revealed that the lack of cybercrime and data protection legislation in Namibia puts women at risk of violence and in vulnerable positions in the cases of non-consensual image sharing as well as with regard to online blackmail and sexualised hate speech. 

Namibian Police Force (NAMPOL):

Namibia Coalition Against GBV:

Monica Gender Equality, Human Rights and Social Justice:

Single Parents Support Foundation:

Regain Trust:

Legal Assistance Centre:

Sister Namibia:

Women’s Leadership Centre:

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