29 November 2012

Tanzania: GBV- A Devil Society Finds Too Difficult to Shake Off

Tanzania, this week joined the rest of the world in marking 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, at a time no end is insight for the social anomaly.

The media continues to be awash with gender-based violence stories, an indication that the struggle to eliminate violence against women has been excruciatingly slow.

Every year, the United Nations declares the period from the 25 November, International Day for the Eradication of Violence Against Women, to the 10th of December, International Human Rights Day, as the 16 Days of No Violence Against Women across the globe.

The Sixteen Days of Activism 2012 Campaign is happening under the global theme: From peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Challenge Militarism and End Violence against Women!

The Deputy Minister for Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Ms Angela Kairuki, officially launched the national campaign on Monday. The launch also coincided with that of the revised police Form number three (PF3), that according to her, will also be used as evidence in court to help those affected to get justice.

She pointed out that the review of the Police Form number three (PF3) is a development expected to help women affected by gender-based violence (GBV) get immediate attention at hospital. And, Kairuki asked police to educate the public on changes in the form, adding that the older PF3 form had weaknesses.

The national celebrations will see a caravan, a national procession against violence against women, which started in Dar es Salaam on Monday going to Morogoro, Pwani, Dodoma, Singida, Kigoma, Tabora, Kilimanjaro, Manyara, Tanga and Arusha, Mwanza, Shinyanga , Mara, Mwara, Lindi, Mbeya, Iringa and Songea.

Ms Kairuki said reported cases of gender violence have almost doubled in the last one year, according to latest reports. She said research carried out by WiLDAF this year shows that some 6001 cases were reported in media as compared to 3542 in 2011.

She said the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Centre for Women's Global Leadership in 1991.

The problem of violence against women continues unabated despite the fact that the 19th century rights of men to "physically chastise an errant wife" may no longer exist, and a host of conventions, declarations and resolutions against gendered violence may have been enshrined in international law.

Violence against women continues to corrode the fabric of society in every country of the world. In homes, workplaces, and public spaces; in times of conflict and peace; through explicit and criminalised (though rarely prosecuted) acts, and through implicit and culturally-sanctioned practices, violence against women prevails and is widespread.

This violence can take physical, sexual, and psychological forms and has or will affect an estimated one in three women in the world. This figure is even higher in Africa where legal and institutional mechanisms to prevent violence and gender discrimination are weak in many areas, armed conflicts have perpetuated the use of rape as a weapon of war, and numerous groups maintain traditions of forced early marriage and female genital mutilation.

But no country in the world, let alone continent, has come close to eliminating gendered violence or extinguishing its roots, which lie firmly embedded in, and nurtured by, normalised cultures of discrimination, domination and objectification.

This is why, while enforceable laws are a step in the right direction - even if, as in the case of marital rape, it took the likes of the UK until the 1990s to take the necessary steps - they are far from sufficient. Ending physical, sexual and psychological violence also requires accompanying drives to tackle the more hidden economic, institutional, and cultural assaults faced by women and girls.

In the words of Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, "eliminating violence against women necessarily encompasses measures to empower women to stand for their own rights, make decisions on their lives and participate fully in the life of their communities".

This struggle will no doubt take much time, continue to encounter fierce resistance, and require unrelenting efforts from the grassroots as well as political and cultural leaders. But it is something in which we are all inescapably implicated. To quote Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women:

"This is not just a women's issue, this is a responsibility for all of us. This violence is an outrage and it must be stopped. Time has run out for complacency or excuses." Domestic violence Domestic violence affects all social groups and can consist of physical, sexual and psychological abuse.

Although men can also be affected by domestic violence, women suffer disproportionately. This trend occurs across much of the world, but Nigeria's discriminatory laws and dismissive police compound its particularly high rates of domestic violence.

Most potently, its prevalent culture of silence and stigma for the victims of domestic violence hinders public acknowledgement of the problem. There exists an urgent need to challenge the social prejudices and institutional structures in order to protect its women, not just from danger, but also from ridicule, fear and isolation.

Stephane Mikala, Deputy Director of Amnesty International's Africa program, said: "On a daily basis, Nigerian women are beaten, raped and even murdered by members of their family for supposed transgressions, which can range from not having meals ready on time to visiting family members without their husband's permission," adding that "husbands, partners and fathers are responsible for most of the violence".

Although more widespread in South Asia, acid attacks on women which cause extreme pain, disfigurement and can be fatal, have also been on the rise in Nigeria, and have failed to be taken seriously as an offence by the Nigerian authorities.

Female Genital Mutilation Though Female Genital Mutilation is a danger to health and life, societies continue holding on to the ancient ritual with high regards as a way of initiating young girls into womanhood.

Even the winds of cultural imperialism, modernization and globalization sweeping across Africa, seem to be failing to put an end to the barbaric act that is usually performed without anesthesia and is intensely painful.

In Tanzania, Female Genital Mutilation is traditionally performed in areas such as Arusha, Kilimamnjaro, Dodoma, Singida, Mara and Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya regions, and Zanzibar. According to Tanzania health statistics, FGM affects 18 percent of the female population in Tanzania.

Women are left with little choice in the practice despite the physical and psychological harm. The practice is seen as necessary preparation for woman's marital and family responsibilities. There are social stigmas associated with women who are not circumcised.

For example it is thought that a woman not operated on will suffer ill health, disease and be affected by a taboo. Traditionally males are strongly prohibited from marrying into a family where women do not undergo female genital mutilation.

Immediate consequences of FGM include severe pain and bleeding, shock, difficulty in passing urine, infections, injury to nearby genital tissue and sometimes death.

The procedure can result in death through severe bleeding leading to haemorrhagic shock, neurogenic shock as a result of pain and trauma, and overwhelming infection and septicaemia, according to Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

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