ON Thursday January 7, 2021, key stakeholders gathered at the Sheikh Idrissa Abdulwakil Hall to discuss possible ways to end gender-based violence. The meeting was convened by President Hussein Mwinyi specifically to help curb the problem.
High-ranking government officials, religious leaders and members of the public were among the attendees at the meeting chaired by the president.
“I asked to meet you so that we can come up with a solution on how to end violence and abuse of children and women in the country. Discussion can take us a step forward in anti-gender-based violence,” President Mwinyi said.
He said at the end of the half day discussions that “we all need to stand against GBV, and that this can only be achieved if everyone is involved in the fight.”
He said there must be communication between the reception/handling desks and the top management so that the leaders can track or follow up cases. He said it is possible to end gender-based violence (GBV) should everyone take the problems seriously.
Other directives include establishment of a special sexual offences court and collaboration against corruption in the police, medical and judicial systems as a serious barrier in the fight against sexual abuses.
He directed the formation of a special committee to, among other things, coordinate the establishment of the envisaged special sexual offences court.
Its terms of reference will, besides the court formation, focus on legal reforms, intensification of gender equality desks at police stations, public education on sexual offences and strengthening of testing centres for sexual abuse victims.
“We made the laws, we have the rights to review if necessary so that we have effective laws to serve the needs of the day,” said Dr Mwinyi, directing all government agencies responsible for law reforms to ensure the February sitting of the House of Representatives worked on law amendments.
He also directed the involvement of all stakeholders in envisaged changes to ensure the country finally comes up with effective laws.
“We don’t expect any lapses soon after the new amendments,” he noted.
The president stressed the need to focus on preventive measures, saying tough laws were inevitable for stubborn offenders.
Waging war against the use narcotic drugs, moral decay, and promoting appropriate use of social media are other things that the president observed that can help end sexual abuse of children in the society.
“Let us invest heavily in preventive measures against sexual abuse, but we need harsh legislation for the obstinate.”
Registrar of Courts, Zanzibar Commissioner of Police and Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) gave alarming statistics on the problem, which they blamed on weak legislation, moral decay and lack of cooperation among members of society. Police Commissioner Mohammed Hassan Haji said law enforcers registered 655 sexual-related cases last year, a 10 per cent drop from 730 cases reported in 2019.
He blamed rising sexual abuse cases on moral decay as the key cause. Other causes, he said, included misuse of technologies, lack of parental care and witchcraft beliefs.
DPP Ibrahim Mzee Ibrahim also gave some statistics on how his office has been handling cases related to GBV, mentioning weakness in laws and insufficient evidence as challenges that need to be addressed for proper handling of cases including sexual offences.
Tanzania Media Women Association (Tamwa) Zanzibar Director, Dr Mzuri Issa decried lack of political will in the fight against sexual abuse as she thanked President Mwinyi for spearheading the fight. She said it had become risky even to leave children with their biological fathers.
Ms Asha Omar, a resident of Fuoni area and a mother to one of the sexual abuse victims, said “This is indeed a great shame to our country, sexual abuse must stop now in our small country. We cannot boast of being in peace while children and women live in fear of being raped.”
“We cannot enjoy peace and stability while our children are abused and traumatised. We protect our children starting from home, religious classes, worship centres, schools, and streets. She called for collective effort to address GBV in Zanzibar.
Ms Omar thanked both retired president Dr Ali Mohamed Shein and the President Dr Mwinyi for their initiatives in the protection of children and women in the country.
Mr Salum Hashim, a parent commended ongoing efforts which include improving police gender, Children Desks and review of laws with the view of having heavy punishments.
“Adults must change while children should be taught self-defense (at least reporting if abused even by biological parent),” he said.
Analysts argue that violence against women and children is not unique to Zanzibar or Tanzania, it cuts across boundaries.
Abuse of children and women is considered as one of the most aberrant human rights violation requiring much attention to fight.
Despite ongoing incidents of abuse in the country, Zanzibar government has been commended for the enactment of the 2011 Children Act, which represented a ground breaking moment for the protection of children rights in Zanzibar.
Gender-Based violence refers to harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. It is rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms.
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a serious violation of human rights and a life-threatening health and protection issue.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most systematic and widespread human rights violations, and that eliminating such violence globally requires intensive efforts.
UNICEF also states that every year, millions of girls and boys around the world face sexual abuse and exploitation.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says violence against children includes all forms of violence against people under 18 years old, whether perpetrated by parents or other caregivers, peers, romantic partners, or strangers.
Globally, it is estimated that millions of children aged 2–17 years, experience physical, sexual, or emotional violence or neglect, and that experiencing violence in childhood impacts lifelong health and well-being.