“The turn-up at the centre is relatively high as more seem to be aware their rights, but most of the accusations on rape are not justified,” said Dr Msafiri Marijani, a pathologist at Mnazi Mmoja hospital said.The one-stop-centre established last year in March takes care for victims of sexual abuse and violence, and according to Dr Marijani over 70 percent of the 250 cases reported at the centre each month are not rape cases but show that young girls are sexually active.
According to Ms Jamila Mahmoud, a lawyer with the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) she explains that rape as a general term is used to describe sex without consent, or unlawful sexual intercourse, with females as the victims. Defilement on the other hand is defined by the law when a man engages in sexual relations with a women or girl who is under the age of 18 with or without her consent.
With defilement, it does not matter if it was consensual sex between the girl and the accused. The accused can face up to 30 years in prison, under criminal Act (sexual offense No 6/2004).According Ms Jamila under the Zanzibar law, she says, a perpetrator under age of 14 years will not be criminally responsible and may be let free, but if the perpetrator is between the ages of 14 and 18 yrs, will be charged as an adult unless it is his first time offence.
However, Jamila admits that the Zanzibar Criminal Act, particularly section regarding sexual offences needs improvement.According the Tanzania Media Women Association, (TAMWA) and the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association, (ZAFELA), Ms Rahma Khamis and the director of the women and children rights- Ministry of Social Welfare, Youths, Women and Children Development, many parents opt to rush their daughters into marriage as soon as they suspect she has been defiled so as to hide shame of the defilement. Most families expect their daughters to be married as virgins.
With more parents legally aware they have the confidence to report sexual abuse to the community leaders, the police, and the one-stop centre. The one-stop-centre also known as abuse centre is supported by the ministry responsible for women and children, the Ministry of Health, and development partners to help victims of rape, sexual abuse and violence.
Ms Biubwa Ali Mohamed, a coordinator at the Centre says, “We provide a number of services, such as victim counselling, testing, treatment, and legal advice. It is a centre with a counsellor, police office, a doctor, and a legal advisor.”But she admits that the centre is not fully operational due to lack of equipment and skilled staff, as the Marijani says “More need to be done by the government and development partners to minimise discouraging patients (or victims). We should have all the necessary equipment and trained staff at the centre.”
Dr Marijani emphasizes that the centre should be developed to achieve the intended goals of providing quick services to the victims. Even before setting up the centre at Mnazi-Mmoja hospital, government authorities were already planning to establish similar one-stop-centre in Pemba Island and in each district.
According to police reports most sexual abuse cases sadly end at the family level, as most perpetrators are members of the families.If the daughter is above the age of 15 she is conveniently married off to an unsuspecting suitor. If the girl is younger the family usually opts to solve the problem themselves and in most cases money is given out to the parents as compensation.
This hampers the war abuse of children in Zanzibar especially girls. Some corrupt police officers and magistrates allegedly encourage this trend. So the question is why are these girls sexually active yet they are so young? Parents in Zanzibar blame it on moral decay contributed by globalisation and the importation of foreign lifestyles, poverty, and ignorance on the consequences of early sex.
Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA), Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (ZAFELA) are some of the activists are in the forefront making sure that women and children know their rights, and many people through the media, take a role in stopping any form abuse on the isles.
The latest initiative to stop violence against women and girls has been taken by the Action-Aid, saying that there was an urgent need to break wall of silence surrounding violence against women and girls in Zanzibar.The latest survey conducted by ActionAid found that 17.2 per cent of every partnered women aged 15 and above in Unguja and 35.6 per cent in Pemba stated they had experienced physical violence, saying the Violence Against Women (VAW) is a violation of women’s fundamental human rights attributed to power imbalances and structural inequality between women and men.