WOMEN, CHILDREN AGENDA: State mulls legal reform

PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan has said the time is ripe to conduct an assessment on various laws for the sake of identifying and filling the gaps that will help in promoting welfare of women children in the country.

The president also called for combined efforts between government and civil societies in educating members of the public on various laws with their attached punishments, in a bid to reduce occurrence of crimes within communities.

The Head of State made the statements yesterday in Dar es Salaam, during an event to mark 25 years since the establishment of the Tanzania Chapter of the Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF).

The president expressed concerns over the recurrence of crimes against women and children in various places in the country, despite the presence of laws and machinery that were introduced for justice provision.

“It’s a time that we conduct an assessment of laws dealing with inheritance, marriages, property ownership for women and sexual abuse. This will help to identify gaps and make the necessary improvements,” she said.

Speaking on the need for public awareness on the laws of the land, President Samia called for deliberate efforts among players to ensure the available laws are well understood to the citizens at all levels.

“It seems that the public aren’t aware of various laws as a result of the recurrences of crimes of the same nature, providing public education on the matter will be the best option that has to be taken by the government and stakeholders who are members of civil societies,” she explained.

Ms Samia also assured that the government is determined to work on all the recommendations to be provided by civil societies regarding the amendment of Political Parties and the National Election Acts, to enable equal participation of women in political activities.

She said the recommendations are expected to feature in the report of the special taskforce that she formed, to coordinate multiparty stakeholders’ opinion on ways of conducting politics in the country.

She also explained the need to review the customary laws that contradict the national laws.

“There are some customary laws that hinder social progress. But some are so good, we shall improve the good one and eliminate the improper ones,” she said, noting that the process will be done by engaging traditional leaders.  

Moreover, President Samia said the government is considering formulating the law against gender based violence, in a move to engage protection of women and children.

She also asked civil societies to support the government through various policies that enable social prosperity of women as a result of combating early marriages of girls.

The Minister for Constitution and Legal Affairs Dr Dramas Ndumbaro commended the continued cooperation that WiLDAF has been providing to the government, as a result of formulation of various changes including establishment of gender desks in the police stations.

Earlier, WiLDAF Board Chairperson Dr Monica Mhoja humbly requested President Samia to expedite the process of amending the Marriage Act of 1971, as it contradicts the Education and Child Act, particularly when it comes to the age of marriage and the involvement of children in romantic relationships.

She called on the inheritance laws to be repealed, arguing that it has become a thorn in the side of women and girls in the country, making women suffer on assets they have sought with their spouses.

“These laws have undermined women’s efforts to strengthen themselves economically. There has been a long-standing WiLDAF request regarding these laws and we have submitted an alternative bill without success,” she noted.

Dr Mhoja further requested for a review and improvements to the Political Parties and the National Election Acts.

“The 2019 changes to the political parties Act addressed issues of gender and inclusion, however, this law has not set a legal requirement to require political parties to consider gender equality,” she noted.

She further said there was a need to enact a law dealing with the issues of violence against women and children as the problem was still significant.

“We recognise the government’s efforts in dealing with this issue in strengthening policies and systems to deal with this problem as well as the National Plan of Action to End Violence Against Women and Children in Tanzania (MTAKUWA) 2017/8-2021/2,” she said.

Hodan Addou, UN Women Representative in Tanzania, said civil society is one of UN Women’s most important constituencies, a dynamic source of ideas and policy perspective partnership, and a strong advocate in realising UN Women’s birth.

“We have been partnering with WILDAF in its work to end violence against women and girls. We have worked together to advocate for laws and policies that protect women’s and girls’ right never tiring of stressing the message that women’s rights are human rights,” she said 

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