WINDHOEK: About one in five complainants withdraw their protection order applications before they even receive a final order, Coordinator of Gender Research and Advocacy Project, Dianne Hubbard at the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) said on Tuesday.
Hubbard made the remarks at the launch of a report by the LAC titled ¨Seeking Safety¨ on Tuesday an extensive assessment of domestic violence in Namibia and the operation of the combating of Domestic Violence Act here.
Launching the report of the study that was conducted since 2006, Hubbard said one of the reasons why this research was done is that there has never before been a study of how the combating of Domestic Violence Act is working on the ground
¨Although there has been several studies of other aspects of domestic violence in Namibia, much of the data is not well-known adding that the data is not actually used to inform law and policy,¨ she said.
Hubbard said one of the most worrying findings of the research is that complainants withdrew protection order applications in large numbers.
She explained that under the law, when you apply for a protection order, you are normally first issued with an interim order on an emergency basis.
¨The interim order is made final after the magistrate hears both sides of the story at an inquiry,¨ Hubbard stated.
She said the LAC study shows that more than three-quarters of people who apply for a protection order receive an interim order with most getting some or all of the provisions they requested before adding that there is a huge attrition after that.
According to their study, only one- quarter of the applications resulted in a final order as some complainants reconcile with their abusers which could mean that the interim order alone was sufficient to stop the violence.
Hubbard said according to the study it is also likely that some complainants are threatened or intimidated into abandoning their attempts to get a protection order.
¨Where a complainant does not appear at an inquiry, the court is suppose to request the station commander of the closest police station to investigate the reasons for the non-appearance to ensure that no intimidation has taken place,¨ she questioned.
The study also found she said that out of 42 cases where complainants did not appear at inquiries, only 10 files recorded such a request from the court to the station commander and only two files contained replies.
The study found that there is no provision for follow ups by social workers either.
¨So I worry that we are leaving some victims at the mercy of their abusers after they try to reach out for help,¨ Hubbard said.
Meanwhile Hubbard also mentioned domestic violence following the study is very serious in the country adding that three-fourths of the complainants had suffered physical abuse and that one out of every two complainants had received death threats.
Some of the threats recorded on the application forms are as follows: He would kill the complainant, set her on fire and then kill himself.
¨Two threatened to cut the complainant´s head off, one said, he would cut the complainant´s breast off and another said he would put out the complainant´s eyes,¨ she said.
The report also revealed that by the end of 2008, 1000 protection order application were received nation wide.
9 out of 10 protection order applications come from women whilst one out of every ten protection order application comes from men.
¨Domestic violence is a gender based crime, but both men and women do suffer and both are reaching out for help,¨”Hubbard said.
However the study recommended to simplify the application forms and the procedure for making interim orders final, since the current procedure is not well understood by either complainants or respondents.
It also recommended a standard procedure for making protection orders available after hours and on weekends, something which is dependent at present on the goodwill of individual officers, the study suggested.