By Nghidimondjila Lebbeus Hashikutuva
In mid-2020, Beauty Boois started a petition on change.org, calling for the legalization of abortion on demand in Namibia. The petition, which had 50 000 signatories within a month, sparked a nationwide debate on sexual and reproductive rights and bodily autonomy in Namibia and elsewhere.
Shortly after the petition, on the 18th of July, pro-life Namibians took the streets, to protest against the legalization of abortion on demand in Namibia.
In that same week, while young Namibians were expressing the urgent need for bodily autonomy in Namibia, Doreen Sioka, the Minister of Gender Equality, Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare, told the media that she does not believe that abortion should be legalized because she is ‘Christian’.
The clear message, of course, was that Doreen Sioka represents only the interests and plight of Christian women, despite Namibia being a constitutionally secular state.
Adding to her remarks, Doreen also said that instead of terminating their pregnancies, women should carry their pregnancies to term and give them up for adoption; completely missing the difference between abortion (a choice on whether or not to give birth) and adoption (a choice on whether or not to parent).
Unfortunately, this is not the first time Doreen has failed to advance the interests of women, children and gender and sexual minorities in Namibia. And it wasn’t the last.
She has, in the past, pleaded with Namibian men to stop raping and murdering women, citing that should it continue, we may not have women left to popularize the country. At face value, this may sound innocent, but it is an expression that diminishes women into mere reproductive units with nothing else to offer to this country. It is aggravating already-problematic biases, such as the one which suggests that women only deserve protection because of their reproductive ability.
Doreen has also asked men to stop murdering women and instead ‘hunt’ for another woman when their relationships go sour. I’m not sure I need to explain why this statement is problematic or why it propagates the idea that women exist to serve and be pursued by men.
It is, therefore, not surprising that on the second day of #ShutItAllDown’s protests, young Namibian women and men called for the immediate resignation of Doreen Sioka.
The protesters assembled at the intersection of Independence Avenue and Fidel Castro Street and marched to the Ministry’s building, after disrupting traffic on Independence Avenue.
Chanting, “Doreen Must Go,”, “Do Your Job or Lose Your Job’, the protesters demanded the immediate resignation of Doreen, citing that she is harmful, incompetent and thus undeserving of the position she presently holds.
Of course, Doreen was not in her office that day. When asked where she was, ministry officials told the protesters that she was out of the country, despite an effective ban on international travel by ministers in Namibia.
The truth was that Doreen was in Kongola, preparing to attend a SWAPO drive-through campaign in Katima Mulilo, while the entire country was crying for her to do her job and accelerate efforts towards fighting against sexual and gender-based violence and femicide.
Nonetheless, the protesters asserted their voices in front of the Ministry; playing WAP (Wet As* P*ssy) by Cardi B. in front of the members of the Special Reserve Force of the Namibian Police Force who were heavily present, armed and deployed to minimize the voices of young women in Namibia.
The use of the song WAP was heavily criticized by both government officials and other Namibian youths, arguing that the song was unnecessarily vulgar and explicit and, thus, not appropriate in a protest against sexual and gender-based violence and femicide.
What these critics missed, however, was that the song WAP is inherently political, as it speaks about the sexual liberation of women.
All over the world, men can express themselves sexually without fear of being seen as less than. For women, this is not true.
Where men can openly talk about being horny, women are frowned upon for even whispering about their vaginas. This is misogyny; the same misogyny that serves as the foundation for sexual and gender-based violence.
In later articles, I will, in more detail, explain the use of ‘provocative’ music and language during #ShutItAllDown and the political meaning of this usage.
The Tweeted Revolution! is a series of articles written by Lebbeus Nghidimondjila Hashikutuva, written exclusively for Afterbreak Teens and covering the #ShutItAllDown protests.