Research

Legal Assistance Centre (LAC) Namibia

Description of LAC

1. Project leaders

On 9th July 1988, the Legal Assistance Centre opened its doors in the capital of Namibia, Windhoek. The LAC's main objective is to protect the human rights of all Namibians. It is a non governmental organization and the only of its kind in Namibia. It is funded by national and international donor organisations and private donors. Its work is supervised by the Legal Assistance Trust, whose trustees include legal practitioners, other professionals and community leaders.

The LAC’s working fields are:

  • Litigation
  • Information and Advice
  • Education and Training
  • Research
  • Law Reform and Advocacy

At this moment, the LAC is in charge of the following projects:

AIDS Law Unit (ALU)
Promoting a human rights based response to HIV/AIDS in Namibia, the AIDS Law Unit focuses on both the infringement of civil and political rights on the basis of HIV status and the denial of socio-economic rights.

Gender, Research & Advocacy Project (GR&AP)
The Gender Research & Advocacy Project seeks to promote gender equality and the empowerment of women through legal research, law reform and related advocacy work.

Human Rights & Constitutional Unit (HURICON)
Huricon engages in test case litigation relating to human rights issues or rights protected by the Namibian Constitution including the right to dignity, privacy, equality and freedom from discrimination.

Land, Environment & Development (LEAD) Project
The LEAD Project's aim is to address the needs of the rural poor by cooperating with government and NGOs through research, training, law reform, litigation and lobbying.

Namibian Law Report
The Law Report contains important judgments given by Namibia’s Labour Court, High Court and Supreme Court.

Namlex
An index of laws in Namibia. The most recent update is to 30 June 2010.

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1.
Embedment of the study in the work of the LAC

The study Maintenance Matters – An Assessment of the Operation of the Maintenance Act 9 of 2003 – was conducted by the Gender, Research & Advocacy Project (GR&AP).

2.Report Maintenance Matters: An Assessment of the Operation of the Maintenance Act 9

In 2013, GR&AP launched the report on the operation of the new Maintenance Act.The study is the third in a series conducted by the Legal Assistance Centre on the operation of key gender laws in Namibia. It is the first study to assess the operation of the Maintenance Act.

The goal of the study was to assess if the law is serving its intended purpose effectively and simultaneously develop concepts in order to improve the performance of the Maintenance Act.

For this purpose, data was collected from maintenance files opened during the years 2005 to 2008. The study presents the findings of the field research from:

  • 1687 court files opened in the period 2005-2008 by 19 of the 31 magistrates’ courts in 12 of Namibia’s 13 regions
  • 34 interviews with magistrates, maintenance officers and clerks from 11 regions;
  • 6 focus group discussions with a total of 62 people;
  • an examination of reported and unreported cases that cite the Maintenance Act, and
  • relevant statistics, judicial developments and examples from other countries.

The results show that on average, someone makes a maintenance complaint in Namibia every thirty minutes during working hours, since 4000-5000 complaints are filed at the maintenance courts each year. However, only approximately two-thirds of complaints ever result in an order being made. This is despite the fact that all children need maintenance and most claims for maintenance present a clear need for financial support. Overall, the findings show that if the maintenance complaint is a simple one and the absent parent is willing to pay maintenance, the process of making an order will be as quick and easy as the law intends it to be. However, if there are challenges along the way, the outcome is very different – the process will probably take much longer with numerous causes for delay, and an order may not even be made.

The primary author of the report was Rachel Coomer. Dianne Hubbard supervised the project, wrote Chapters 3-4 and edited the report.

Rachel Coomer has been with the Legal Assistance Centre since 2007. She has a degree from Oxford University in the UK and a Master’s degree from the University of the Western Cape. She is trained as a technical writer, with particular skills in the production of education materials. Her role in the department is to assist with all outreach functions including the development of educational materials, advocacy, research, dissemination of research findings and media liaison.

Dianne Hubbard has been the Coordinator of the GR&AP since it was established in 1993. She has degrees in English Literature from the University of North Carolina in the USA and the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa, as well as a law degree with honours from Harvard Law School in the USA. She is listed in the 'A-Z of Political Personalities' in the Guide to Namibian Politics.

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