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Biased laws fuel gender based violence

The Penal code was amended by provisions of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act (SOSPA) of 1998.

Whereas the Marriage Act of 1971 legalises the marriages of girls as young as 15 years with consent of parents, the Penal Code prohibits any sexual intercourse with a girl below the age of 18, even if the girl had consented.

In the report it was revealed that a number of girls below the age of 18 are married-off to men in their respective communities. Greedy parents marry-off their daughters at tender ages for material gain, especially livestock and money which are given as bride price.

A resident of Iramba district in Singida region, Ms Joyce Lufega, admitted during the study that she had coerced her daughter into marriage just after she completed primary school so that she could get 100,000/-as bride price.

“I personally arranged the marriage which, however, lasted for only four years since she was not mature enough to handle family issues,” she said.

A victim of forced marriage, Ms Grace Ezekiel (26) of Kisiriri ward in Singida region, recalls how she was married-off at 16 years of age when she had just completed primary school in 2002 and was eager to continue with secondary education at that time.

“I was forced into marriage and my parents received 200,000 as the bride price,” Ms Ezekiel told one of the journalists who undertook the survey. It is against this backdrop that the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA) commissioned a media survey in April this year in 20 regions countrywide to establish the prevalence and extent of GBV in society.

Through its five-year strategic plan spanning between the year 2000 and 2014, TAMWA has among others, planned to conduct various activities to create awareness on GBV and collect scientific data on its occurrence.

Journalists from various media outlets in the country conducted the survey that covered five forms of GBV namely rape, forced marriages of female students, female genital mutilation in addition to abandonment of children, and battering of women. It was conducted in 20 regions (15 in Tanzania Mainland and five regions in Zanzibar).

TAMWA’s resolve to undertake the survey was a result of the fact that GBV has continued unabated in most parts of the country. Available data compiled in 2010 by the Tanzania Health and Demographic Survey showed that over 39 per cent of women in the country have been subjected to GBV from the age of 15.

According to information from the police force in Zanzibar, a total of 268 GBV-related cases were reported during the year 2011. Of the 268 cases reported to the police, only 55 were forwarded to the courts of law and unfortunately it was only one case where the suspect was convicted.

Like any other survey, there were a number of  challenges faced by those conducting the exercise. Bureaucracy was the major challenges as most of the leaders at grass-roots level were not willing to cooperate and give data on the extent of the problems in their respective areas.

There were fears among  interviewees that once the information was published they could either be attacked or  prosecuted. There were also those who wanted to be paid in exchange of information. Poor infrastructure in some of the surveyed districts also proved to be an uphill task for journalists carrying out the survey since they were either delayed or failed to reach some places earmarked for the study.

Generally, findings of the report indicate that GBV is among social vices that have been entrenched in the society. Its causes and setting is more or less the same. It is also true that contradicting legislations, particularly on the right age that a girl can get married coupled with outdated beliefs and traditions are to be blame for GBV.

The study has also revealed that GBV has become part of life for majority of communities in the country. A number of women and children are subjected to various forms of GBV but they, however, do not report the ordeal for fear of stigma. Existing legislations have not served their purposes while others contradict each other.

Poverty has continued to be an excuse for GBV, particularly in rural areas where awareness on citizens’ rights and obligations are limited. The report recommends that lawmakers and responsible leaders should ensure to strive to improve the welfare of the people and improve infrastructure in a bid to address challenges facing communities.

It also called on public and private institutions to spearhead the fight against GBV and also ensure that perpetrators of the heinous acts are brought to book. It is expected that the report will act as a wake-up call for leaders to assess whether steps taken to address GBV in their respective areas have yielded fruits or not.

The survey was conducted in 20 districts, each in one selected region save for Dar es Salaam where all the three districts were covered. The surveyed regions included Morogoro (Mvomero), Mtwara (Newala), Shinyanga (Kahama), Dar es Salaam (Ilala, Temeke and Kinondoni), Kilimanjaro (Same) and Coast region (Mkuranga).

Others were Mara (Tarime), Manyara (Simanjiro), Tanga (Handeni), Kigoma (Kasulu), Iringa (Kilolo), Mbeya (Rungwe) in addition to Singida (Iramba), Dodoma (Kondoa), Arusha (Karatu) and Njombe (Njombe).

In Zanzibar the study covered Pemba, (Micheweni and Wete), South Pemba (Chakechake) Unguja North (Kaskazini A, Kaskazini B), Unguja South (Unguja South), and Urban West (Central district). However, this report only covers the 15 regions of Tanzania Mainland as the Zanzibar report would be launched there by TAMWA Zanzibar. 

 

THE government has been taking a number of ...

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Author: ALVAR MWAKYUSA

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