Out of the blue sky...?: Gender based violence and murder revisited.
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Namibia is swept up in an unprecedented wave of gender based murder. We seem at a loss of how to react effectively to this phenomenon. Individual responses like “bury them alive”, “this carnage has to stop…immediately”, “reintroduce the death penalty” reflect a high degree of helplessness. It is important to note however, that the incidence of gender based murder is perceived as something which is a more recent phenomenon, something which was not there two, three generations back. This is a contention which is extremely difficult to prove for a number of reasons which cannot be explicated here. But it is a contention which provides leverage with those who profess it, because it allows us to bring society back into the equation. It implies (a) that the root cause of the problem is not situated at individual level, (b) that the problem has been in the making for a long time, a problem which did not fall out of the blue sky, and (c) that it is intertwined with the continuous evolution of our social structure. If this is so, punishment as a means of specific and general deterrence will not to help much. The instrumental effect of punitive action as a deterrence is small, and for the symbolic meaning of increased public censure to become functionally integrated in the mind/self of members of society, of actual or potential criminal actors, in other words to take effect at individual level, with a measurable effect at aggregate level (incidence), it needs to be systematically backed up in and throughout the social. Punishment as deterrence satisfies our need for action, but like in most other instances of raising punitivity levels (e.g. Stock Theft Act), the effects are barely measurable, and action becomes activism.
- Legal Studies