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Nipping violence in the bud key to reducing societal burden

EXPOSURE to violence during childhood leaves physical and indelible marks on the brain of the victims that can in the long run negatively impact people for the rest of their lives.

According to the National Plan of Action to End Violence against Women and Children 2017/18 – 2021/22, one’s brain is most vulnerable to trauma in the first two years of life, when many new neural pathways are still being formed, and again in the teenage years when adolescents learn complex analytical skills and mature emotionally.

It also reveals that violence occurs on a continuum, when it occurs during childhood has an impact on a person’s health and well-being into adulthood.

Again, violence tends to be cyclical; therefore addressing it during childhood will reduce the vice against women.

For violence is interpersonal and intergenerational, it can impact individuals, family, and community health and well-being.

In 2011, Tanzania released the findings of Violence against Children (VAC) survey which found that nearly one in three girls and one out of seven boys experience some form of sexual violence before turning 18.

Most children do not report their experiences, few seek services, and even fewer receive any care, treatment, or support if they do report.

Rates of physical and emotional violence are high: among girls, 72 per cent experience some form of physical violence, while for boys the figure is 71 per cent.

The Tanzania Human Rights Report of 2016 released by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) revealed factors contributing to prevalence of sexual violence against children to include slow pace of investigation, prosecution of perpetrators and poor parenting of parents or guardians.

Other factors include the relatives of victims colluding with perpetrators; people tend to conceal the truth to avoid shame in the family and witchcraft beliefs.

Based on sensitivity of the problem, the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) through a project dubbed as a Media Campaign against Prevalence of Rape - SRHR Africa Trust (SAT) found the need to intervene in the promotion of menstrual hygiene, sexual and reproductive health rights (SRHR) services and media campaigns on the prevalence of rape and sodomy for girls and boys.

TAMWA’s Legal Officer, Ms Loyce Gondwe observed that the programme was aimed at providing legal aid and counselling to victims of gender-based violence related to rape and sodomy to obtain justices as well as to link them with safe homes.

She said that the focus was on Dar es Salaam in areas including Makumbusho, Bunju, Mbagala and Chamazi with the assistance from paralegals, local leaders, police gender desks and activists in those places.

Ms Gondwe pointed out among the goal is to link the victims with safe homes to relieve them from their previous pains and suffering experienced in the former neighbourhoods.

“Through mobile legal and counselling clinics TAMWA has created awareness to 192 people in the community on how to respond to rape and sodomy.

At least 181 victims of rape and sodomy (136 girls and 45 boys) have been reached through legal support and counselling. Issues pertaining to rape and sodomy in these areas are still a challenge, the problem is quite big.

Behind the problems there are factors such as low awareness on the issues which hampers reportage of the cases,” said Ms Gondwe. She pointed out that they have been working on the cases, but it reaches a point the parties refuse to cooperate claiming that the matters should be tackled within the families, they fear that it would bring shame upon the family.

In that case, she noted that the families of the victims and the perpetrators settle the issues by themselves at home. After such arrangements majority of the victims are being transferred from their whereabouts to escape people pointing fingers at them.

Ms Gondwe disclosed that most of the rape and sodomy cases they have attended, parents of the victims have transferred their children from one place to another, some of them have even moved to other regions in the country.

“Some of these people withdrew the cases to protect their marriages because if the man is imprisoned who was going to provide for the family. Most cases therefore, do not come to the end for lack of cooperation,” she noted.

In the next phase of the project, the Legal Officer underscored on the plan to intensify more efforts on ways to obtain support from the public so that in the end victims acquire the deserved justice.

“Lack of a one Stop Centre where GBV services could be provided to rape survivors on time and inadequate rape kits is among the biggest challenges.

Another challenge is lack of proper knowledge in keeping the evidence; people tend to bath their children after the incidents instead of rushing to the police and hospital for verification.

If the case goes to the court it lacks strong evidence,” said the Legal Officer. Among other initiatives undertaken throughout the course of implementing the project involves providing small supports such as school supplies, raising awareness on steps to take in reporting GBV cases.

The team carried out awareness sessions at Charambe Secondary School on the Law of a Child and other legal aids, counselling and HIV/AIDS in collaboration with PEPFAR to the students and teachers of the school.

The Legal Officer hinted on the achievements including the important role in helping the survivors of sexual assault in their recovery by giving them love, comfort and support.

“The experience of rape can be extremely painful, and a survivor may require understanding.

The experience shows that rape experience is a crisis that the survivors must work through at their own pace, and most survivors do work through this crisis and return to their normal routine.

Most survivors have a great deal of inner strength, and support can help survivors regain their feelings of personal strength and self-worth,” affirmed the Legal Officer.

Despite government efforts and that of the various stakeholders like the Civil Society Organisations such as TAMWA in acting against all forms of gender-based violence (GBV), including rape and sodomy.

Police report shows that there an increase of 478 rape and sodomy cases that is equivalent to 6.8 per cent in 2017, whereby 7,460 cases were reported from January to November 2017 in comparison to 6,985 cases which were reported in 2016.

Such has indicated that through interventions such as advocacy of the issues, most people have started to report the cases.

This means that there is a need for an increased knowledge and advocacy activities on GBV issues so that the community breaks the silence and report the matters.

The report also shows that the number of cases might be higher than the figures shown as most rape cases occur without being reported.

It further, notes that reportage of rape cases depends, among other things, with the awareness on gender-based violence imparted in a certain region or district.

Which means the higher the awareness, the higher the reportage and vice versa. Moreover, TAMWA reveals that most of the people involved in rape and sodomising women and children are men from within the communities.

These include family relatives, friends, teachers, school drivers, conductors and ‘boda-boda’ drivers. The most affected group are children whereby young girls are raped and boys are sodomised in the settings of the home, school, in the way home, in friend’s houses and clubs.

With increasing rape disclosure and support services for rape victims in Tanzania, there is a need of taking rape and sodomy as a national agenda in order to improve care of the victims and to reduce the burden of rape and its health consequences.

THE government has been implementing ...

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Author: MAUREEN ODUNGA

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