19 November 2012

Tanzania: Gender-Based Violence Must Be Discouraged

Photo: Robert Okanda/The Daily News
A section of members of the diplomatic community, activists and Dar es Salaam residents march during the launch of the 16 days of 'Scold Violence Against Gender'.


A RECENT survey has shown that gender-based violence is escalating with pronounced cases occurring in Kagera, Mara, Mwanza and Kigoma regions.

In most cases, it is the wives who fall victim to the rage or egoistic whims of husbands. But it is imperative to mention at the outset that it is also on record that a rather insignificant number of women batter men.

There are, certainly, abused men in our society even though this abuse is less likely to be taken seriously. Women in rural Tanzania have told the Constitutional Review Commission that the envisaged Constitution should have provisions that protect them from gender based violence, especially the cruelty that emanates from husbands.

The women complain (nearly in each region) that their husbands often batter them and subject them to untold suffering. Over and above this social misdemeanor, it is these same women who slog it out in the farm to make ends meet. One of the most painful parts of being a woman in this country, the complainants say, is the fear and vulnerability to violence.

Wife battering is a major public health problem in this country, but the legal curbs do not take it seriously enough. In fact, any act of gender-based violence that results in physical, sexual or mental harm to women, including threats, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty should be rated as a punishable, criminal offence.

A recent study has shown that in Dar es Salaam, 33 per cent of ever-partnered women have experienced physical violence and 23 per cent have been subjected to sexual violence. In Mbeya, 47 per cent have complained about domestic abuse and 31 per cent have reported sexual violence.

Some of these women have experienced severe physical violence. This is unacceptable. For some men, violence against women is seen as a natural part of life. However, research has shown that such violence can have devastating consequences, such as longterm health impairment for the women who experience it.

Violent acts don't just affect women, but they also can have lasting negative impacts on children and family. Domestic violence is deplorable as it threatens to unstitch the very fabric of upright family life.

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