Women and Justice: Court: High Court of Namibia

Domestic Case Law

The State v. L.S. High Court of Namibia (2006)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The accused murdered her newborn child and pleaded guilty to the crime. In determining her prison sentence, the judge took into account mitigating circumstances such as her young age (21 years old), the fact that the child’s father denied responsibility for the child, and the fact that her family nearly kicked her out of their home when she had her previous child. The judge also acknowledged that she was a first-time offender and showed remorse for the crime. However, he reiterated the seriousness of the crime and stated that he did not want his leniency in this case to serve as a message to other young women that infanticide was acceptable. He further stated that newborn infants have just as much a right to life as anyone else. For the murder, he sentenced the accused to three years imprisonment with 30 months suspended for five years on the condition that the accused not be convicted of murder during the suspension. For the concealment of the birth of her newborn child, the judge sentenced the accused to six months imprisonment to run concurrently with the murder sentence.



The State v. V.U. High Court of Namibia (2007)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape

The accused conceived a child after incestuous sexual intercourse with her brother. After the child was born, the mother tied a scarf around its neck and buried it alive. At trial, she claimed that the child was strangled by its own umbilical cord and was already dead when she buried it. However, medical and forensic evidence showed that the child died from strangulation and suffocation due to the mother’s actions. She was convicted of murder. 



Monomono v. The State High Court of Namibia (2017)

Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The appellant was convicted of rape under the Combating of Rape, Act 8 of 2000 (the “Act”) in the Regional Court for inserting his finger into the vagina of his friend’s eight-year-old daughter (the “complainant”). This insertion caused bruising to the complainant’s vagina that lasted longer than 72 hours. The complainant’s hymen, however, remained intact. The appellant was sentenced to 15 years in prison, of which five were conditionally suspended. On appeal, the appellant argued that he had not committed rape under the Act because he had not penetrated the complainant’s “vagina” as that term is defined under the Act, but rather touched the areas around her vagina. Accordingly, he argued that, at most, he had committed indecent assault, and therefore his sentence should be reduced. The appellate court denied the appeal and upheld the original sentence, finding that the labia minora, labia majora and the para-urethral fort all form part of the complainant’s genital organs and therefore satisfy the definition of “vagina” within the Act.



The State v. G.I. High Court of Namibia (2007)

Abortion and reproductive health rights

The accused was an 18-year-old woman charged with the crime of abortion under the Abortion and Sterilization Act, 2 of 1975 (the “Act”). The Act outlaws abortion and prescribes no minimum sentence for the crime. The accused pleaded guilty and testified that she performed the abortion on herself, which terminated a two-month-long pregnancy. The Court sentenced her to pay N$3,000 or serve two years in prison. On review, the High Court found the sentence to be “completely” disproportionate to the crime. The Judge referred to the Old Authorities and stated that sentences for abortion should be less harsh in cases where a very young fetus is involved. The Judge also found that the accused personal circumstances and the particular circumstances of her trial, including the fact that she was a minor at the time, did not have counsel to represent her, and was not given the opportunity to explain her actions, warranted mitigation of the penalty. Finding that the lower court did not factor in any of these mitigating circumstances, the High Court reduced the sentence to N$300 or three months in prison, which he suspended on the condition that during that period the accused was not convicted of any abortion-related crime.



The State v. Dausab High Court of Namibia (2018)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Femicide

The accused was convicted of pre-meditated murder and sentenced to life imprisonment after stabbing his girlfriend (“the victim”) 27 times and locking her in a room until she bled to death. Prior to murdering the victim, the accused sent her a text message describing how he would kill her. At trial, the court determined the crime was aggravated by the fact that the accused had a direct intention of murdering his girlfriend and did so in a domestic setting. In imposing a sentence, the court took into account retribution, prevention of crime, deterrence and reformation. The court further found that the accused did not care about the victim’s right to life, but rather his own wellbeing, that he “played victim,” and that he showed no remorse. The judge stated that it “is high time that men in relationships with women should understand that once a woman tells them that they are no longer interested in continuing with the relationship, she means just that and her views and feelings should be understood and respected.”



Gawaxab v. The State High Court of Namibia (2018)

Femicide, Gender-based violence in general, Sexual harassment

The accused was charged with assaulting and murdering a woman. At trial, the accused filed an application for his discharge at the close of the prosecution’s case, arguing that the prosecution failed to make a case requiring the accused to answer. According to prosecution evidence, after buying alcohol and drinking it with a group of women he did not know, including the deceased, an argument began because the accused stated that he could have sex with all the women. The driver stopped the car when the accused hit the deceased with a bottle. The accused continued to beat the woman outside of the car and the others drove away in fear for their lives to report the attack the police. Upon their return to the scene, they found and picked up the deceased, who was running down the road after escaping the accused. She later passed away from her injuries. At trial, prosecutors presented several eye-witnesses to testify against the accused, as well as direct and circumstantial evidence to support their case. The accused argued that the eye-witnesses had been intoxicated at the time of the assault and therefore their testimony was unreliable. He also argued that the prosecutors failed to meet their burden to convict him. However, the court agreed with the prosecution and refused to discharge the accused, finding that the prosecution’s evidence presented a prima facie case that the accused was legally obliged to answer.



The State v. Swartz High Court of Namibia (2018)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Female infanticide and feticide, Femicide

The accused stabbed and murdered a pregnant minor girl with whom he was in a relationship when he was approximately 18 and she was 15 years old. Their relationship was one filled with domestic abuse and violence. He was convicted of murder and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. He was also convicted of assault for unlawfully and intentionally threatening to kill the deceased’s grandmother, thereby causing her to believe that the accused intended, and had the means, to carry out his threat.



The State v. Iipinge High Court of Namibia (2018)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

The accused was convicted of culpable homicide for kicking his girlfriend to death, despite his claims that her death was caused by falling on a rock. In sentencing the accused to 10 years imprisonment, the court noted that violence against women is a serious problem in Namibia and that this should be taken into account in sentencing decisions as an aggravating factor.



The State v. Nkasi High Court of Namibia (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Female infanticide and feticide

The accused negligently killed his daughter by beating her to death with a stick, which he meant as punishment. He also intentionally shot and killed his son with a shotgun and attempted to shoot his wife. He was convicted of culpable homicide, murder, attempted murder, obstructing the course of justice, possession of a firearm without a license, and the unlawful possession of ammunition. The court sentenced him to 44 years imprisonment. With respect to the conviction for negligent homicide, the court found that parents do not have carte blanche to punish their children. The court also found that the accused’s previous acts of violence against his wife and children constituted aggravating circumstances. The court further emphasized the seriousness of domestic violence and noted that sentencing in such cases should serve as retribution for those harmed, including the community at large and as deterrence to others.



F.N. v. S.M. High Court of Namibia (2012)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

The appellant and respondent are divorced parents of three children. At the time of the divorce, custody of the children was awarded to the respondent. The appellant then moved for an interim protection order, claiming that the respondent physically abused their minor children. A court granted the interim protection order on October 3, 2011, and awarded the appellant interim custody of the children, subject to visitation by the respondent, and ordered respondent to cease abusing the children. The Magistrate’s Court subsequently discharged the interim order on October 24, 2011, based on Section 12 of the Combating of Domestic Violence Act 4 of 2003, reasoning that the beatings were an isolated incident and were only meant to punish the children for bad behavior. The appellant challenged the discharge. The appellate court agreed with appellant and granted a final protection order effective through July 2013, which awarded the appellant custody of the children with visitation for the respondent on alternate weekends and holidays. In its decision, the appellate court stated the importance of rooting out the “evil that is domestic violence in order to give effect to the protection of the constitutional value of human dignity.”



S. v. S. High Court of Namibia (2015)

Divorce and dissolution of marriage, Domestic and intimate partner violence

Plaintiff filed for divorce from her abusive husband after he threatened to kill her. Under Namibian law, before a judge can issue a final divorce decree, the plaintiff must ask the defendant to restore his or her conjugal rights. This process effectively requires the filing spouse to give the other party, in this case an abusive husband, a chance to re-enter the marital home to restore his/her conjugal rights. The High Court of Namibia (“High Court”) recognized the danger of applying this requirement in domestic violence cases, where the respondent may use the judicially-mandated restitution of conjugal rights as an opportunity to access and further abuse the filing spouse.  In light of this risk, the High Court held that a spouse who files for divorce based on acts of domestic violence is exempt from the restitution of conjugal rights requirement.  



State v. Nghidini High Court of Namibia (2015)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Statutory rape or defilement

The defendant, an 18-year-old uncle of the complainant, was criminally charged for housebreaking with intent to rape and raping his 12-year-old niece. The complainant alleged that the defendant, on three separate occasions, came to the complainant’s home and raped her.  The complainant’s mother found out after take the complainant to a clinic, which confirmed that she was pregnant, and confronting the defendant through the headman, as tradition dictates.  According to the defendant, the complainant invited him to her home and agreed to have sex with him for money, specifically N$6. Given the conflicting testimony, the High Court of Namibia (“High Court”) found that the prosecution failed to prove the housebreaking with the intent to rape and rape charges beyond a reasonable doubt.  In explaining its reasonable doubt, the Court cited the facts that complainant did not mention until her cross-examination that her uncle in fact gave her money on the day of the first rape, that she did not wake her seven-year-old brother or otherwise raise an “alarm” when her uncle arrived at her hut at night, and that she continued to withhold information from her mother “after her mother created a secure environment and the accused failed to execute his threat” to beat the complainant if she told anyone.  Still, the Court did not believe the defendant’s testimony that his niece was a “great temptress.”  Instead of homebreaking with intent to rape and rape as charged by the State, the High Court convicted the defendant under section 14, sexual offences with youths, of the Immoral Practices Act, 21 of 1980, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and/or a fine not exceeding N$40,000.  The Court found that the State proved the three elements of that offense: the defendant (1) committed a sexual act with a child under the age of 16 (2) when he was more than three years older than her and (3) not married to her.  Although the defendant claimed that he did not know the complainant’s age, the High Court held that, in order to avoid conviction, the defendant had the burden of proving that the complainant deceived him regarding her age. The defendant failed to provide such proof. 



State v. Naruseb High Court of Namibia (2012)

Domestic and intimate partner violence, Sexual violence and rape, Statutory rape or defilement

The accused was tried for beating and raping his girlfriend A.S. (the third complainant), sexually abusing and beating their five-month-old male and female twin children, and murdering his son by throwing him on the floor.  Medical experts testified that the injuries on the twins suggested sexual and other physical violence.  Denying the charges, the accused testified that A.S., the children’s mother, beat the twins and assaulted the accused. The accused also argued that there was no credible evidence of the crime and that the prosecution failed to meet its burden of proof because A.S. was the only eye-witness to the accused’s alleged crimes. The High Court of Namibia disagreed, finding the accused not credible and finding the A.S. credible, not least because the circumstantial and medical evidence supported her testimony. Citing precedent regarding single witnesses, the Court determined that a single eye-witness is sufficient to sustain a conviction if the witness (a) is credible, (b) gives her statement in a straight-forward manner, and (c) has no reason to falsely incriminate the accused.  In addition, an inference may be properly drawn from the fact that the accused and the complainant were the only two adults in the room between the time the complainant went to bed at night without injuries and when she awoke in the morning with injuries. This finding is significant for domestic violence cases, which often do not involve unbiased third-party testimony.