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Journal Article

“I Need to Hurt You More”: Namibia’s Fight to End Gender-Based Violence

Hannah Britton and Lindsey Shook
Signs
Vol. 40, No. 1 (Autumn 2014), pp. 153-175
DOI: 10.1086/676896
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/676896
Page Count: 23
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“I Need to Hurt You More”: Namibia’s Fight to End Gender-Based Violence
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Abstract

AbstractWhile international attention has focused on genocidal rapes in several recent African conflicts, Namibia is emblematic of the equally important, and often overlooked, postconflict situations in which gender-based violence is both persistent and widespread. Namibia represents another pattern seen in many newly democratized African states as well: there is a disjuncture between, first, the progressive nature of recent legislation; and, second, the national gender scripts that are widely espoused and that continue to impede efforts to address gender-based violence and gender inequalities. This article argues that the persistent fissure between progressive legislation and regressive rhetoric vis-à-vis gender-based violence is linked to a legacy of silence and state-directed amnesia about past abuses. It is also linked to a legacy that places the struggle for gender equality second to the struggle for national liberation. These legacies have fostered an environment in which women’s issues are publicly celebrated but privately constrained. The article further argues that classic rape myths and ideas about the degrees of rape—assumptions that certain acts constitute “worse” forms of rape—began with colonial laws, continued through the liberation struggle, and are still present within societal attitudes about rape. These patterns affect how governments and women’s movements address the intractable problem of gender-based violence.

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