DODOMA: MEMBERS of Parliament have demanded the government to include a provision in the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Bill 2023, to recognize Gender Based Violence (GBV) and harassment in polls as election offenses.
They said the move will help to address myriad challenges facing both women and men when exercising their political rights.
The MPs raised the concern when contributing on three electoral reforms bills tabled in the National Assembly on Tuesday for the second readings.
The bills are National Electoral Commission (NEC) Bill, 2023, the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Government Elections Bill, 2023 and the Political Parties Affairs Laws (Amendment) Bill.
Same East MP Anne Kilango Malecela (CCM), said there is a need for the bill to have a provision that will state clearly that harassment, intimidation and GBV are election offenses to help majority of women who face such challenges while contesting for various posts.
“I am also a victim of GBV, I am a woman parliamentarian, I started contesting for this post since 2005 and I have been facing these challenges which are being regarded as minor issues… it isn’t, violence against women is alarming when we exercise our rights in election,” she said.
The MP commended the Parliamentary Committee on Governance, Constitution and Legal Affairs for presenting a schedule of amendment to allow such section to be included in the bill.
“We aware that there are laws for curbing GBV and harassment but these acts are serious concern in election thus they must be regarded as election offenses, we cannot use the existing laws to deal with them,” she insisted.
Ms Malecela further said, she had experienced serious GBV when she was contesting for Same Constituency, calling upon the government to see such evil acts as serious concern as corruption.
“Women are going through difficulties, it is not that they don’t want to vie for the posts but they are scared of such violence and harassment thus the government should regard this as serious concern,” she insisted.
“Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) has a woman contestant, we are jealous of our aspirant, we are not ready to face such abusive language while our contestant deserves to vie for the post and has done a great job,” she said.
Ms Malecela called upon the government to enact a law that will help to make political platforms peaceful during elections.
“I have said this in order for the government to see the magnitude of the problem, how will the country attain gender parity if political platforms are used to escalate GBV,” she queried.
Special Seats MP Sophia Mwakagenda (Chadema) said violence against women in election is alarming, noting that she is also among the GBV victims because she had experienced such situation when she was contesting for parliamentarian post.
“I didn’t care about that because I was being supported by my family … I have come in Parliament to work for Tanzanians and not otherwise… It is high time for government to institute severe penalties against GBV in election,” she insisted.
She commended efforts being undertaken by President Samia Suluhu Hassan which have enabled the electoral reforms bills to be tabled in the National Assembly.
Iringa Urban MP Jesca Msambatavangu(CCM) also said that she had experienced harassment and GBV in election but she fought to ensure that she is successful.
“When a woman is being attacked due to her gender should not be discouraged, we are supposed to be strong and use the opportunities available to vie for various posts in order to work for our country,” she insisted.
Singida East MP Miraji Mtaturu (CCM), said that there are women who have failed to be elected in various post due to some reasons which are the results of patriarch system, thus the amendment of the laws should help to fight such acts.
Another legislator Selemani Zedi (Bukene,CCM), said the issue of GBV and harassment especially for women aspirants in election is a serious problem… the bill has not identified whether such acts are election offenses and should be penalized.
“There has been the use of abusive language against the contestants the bill will help and identify whether such offenses should be penalized by paying fine of jailed…
I advise such people to be jailed for two years or five because if fine is instituted a person can pay it and continue to commit the offense.”
Chakechake MP Ramadhani Selemani Ramadhani (CCM), consoled all GBV victims and called upon the government to ensure such concern is taken seriously by regarding such evils as election offenses so as to be a lesson to the public.
“When you attack someone, you cause damage to her which cannot be easily cleared… these acts must be recognized as election offenses so as to penalize the perpetrators,” he insisted.