Namibia - Social development

By many economic and social indicators, including population per physician, per hospital bed, and per telephone, Namibia is statistically better off than many other sub-Saharan African countries. However, such comparisons also mask the huge disparities between rural and urban Namibia, and between its black and white populations.

The government is obliged by the constitution to promote actively the welfare of the people, including gender, racial and regional equality. Considerable discrimination against women exists in both formal and customary law. Community property laws, for example, define women as legal minors, unable to enter into any kind of contract without the husband's signature. In the absence of this permission, women may not open a bank account or purchase property. Some measures were taken to address these inequities through the Married Person's Equality Bill, which outlaws discrimination against women in civil marriages. However, the law does not affect practices in customary, or traditional, marriages. Domestic abuse and violence are widespread, and cultural views of women exacerbate the problem.

Indigenous San peoples have historically faced discrimination from Namibia's other ethnic groups. The government has attempted to redress the marginalization of the San by increasing their participation in decision-making on issues that affect them. These efforts have been applied unevenly, and the San remain relatively isolated and largely excluded from national decision making.

Human rights are generally respected. However, there are excesses by security forces, and prison conditions remain harsh.

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