1 December 2012

Tanzania: Rape Victims Getting Row Deal From Law Enforcers

MARIAM Ayubu, 11, was born to Zaituni and Haji Ayubu but the parents never got married. Upon attaining the age of seven, Mariam was taken by her father (the legal age a father can claim custody of his child if the child is living with its mother).

Zaituni said Haji had promised to take their daughter to a nearby school at Mbezi Kimara, in Dar es Salaam. She was already attending school when she was living with her mother. According to Zaituni however, after moving to her father's home her daughter was not taken to school as promised.

As if that wasn't bad enough, the little girl was repeatedly raped by her grandfather and his younger brother in turns. Not able to handle this harrowing experience any further, Mariam decided to flee from her father's house and returned to her mother. She had to narrate the whole ordeal to her mother.

Zaituni went to her former in-laws who are reported to have given her 400,000/- to treat her daughter and keep quiet of what had happened. According to her, she took the money, treated the girl and went ahead to report the two old men to police at Mbezi kwa Yusufu on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam.

Her ordeal hit snag when the police officers at the police station refused to show sympathy with her. She was told off, when the police said "why don't you sort it out in your family. After all the girl seems to be used to it by now." Misfortunes did not end here for Mariam. The father of her daughter became angry with her because she has reported his father, she wants them to be jailed.

The man is said to frame charges against Zaituni and she was put in custody for a day until the news reached the Crisis Resolving Centre (CRC), an organization which resolves crises in families. Established three years ago, the centre is housed at the premises of the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA). CRC coordinator, Ms Elizabeth Mo, says the centre receives an average of ten rape cases a month.

Many of victims range from toddlers to adult women. According to Ms Elizabeth, who is a lawyer/cum counsellor, most of rape perpetrators are close family relatives, friends, neighbours and school mates. Mr Adamu Hamisi, a resident of Tandale suburb in the city reported an incident in which a neighbour's son (who is reported to be a Form II student at a secondary school in Dar es Salaam) is alleged to have raped his six year-old daughter.

The case was reported to Magomeni police station. Police there however are alleged to have shown little interest to listen to his case. In the first instance they were allegedly not willing to accept the PF3 claiming they were wrongly filled by a medical doctor who attended and diagnosed the child.

The police, according to Mr Adam, told him to go back, talk to his neighbour and sort out the problem at family level. The case has also been reported to TAMWA, a media activism association whose mission is to use the media strategically to campaign for women's empowerment and protection of the girl child. It works to improve skills of women media practitioners in both print and electronic media.

The aforesaid are some of the testimonies by parents and guardians on how the police force is less concerned with the ordeal of rape victims who report to them for assistance. All this is happening despite awareness within the police force to take cases related to sexual offences seriously. They have also been trained on how to handle such cases.

It is also happening as Tanzania joins the global community to mark 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV) which started on November 25 through to December 10. The 16 days of activism against GBV is an international campaign originating from the first Women's Global Leadership Institute coordinated by the Centre for Women's global Leadership in 1991.

November 25 was chosen as the International Day against Violence on women and December 10 the international human rights day in order to symbolically link violence against women and human rights and to emphasize that such violence is a violation of human rights. The 16 days of activism also highlights other significant dates including November 29 which is an international women human rights defenders day, December 1-World AIDS Day and December 6, which marks the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre.

The 16 days campaign has been used an organizing strategy by individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence against women by:

(i) Raising awareness about gender based violence as a human rights issue at the local, national, regional and international levels, l Strengthen local work around violence against women,

(ii) Establishing a clear link between local and international work to end violence against women,

(iii) Demonstrating the solidarity of women around the world organizing against violence against women, and

(iv) Creating tools to pressure governments to implement promises made to eliminate violence against women. Tanzania, on the other hand, has been taking steps to ensure protection of girl students in both primary and secondary schools. This follows revelations from activist organizations that rape cases have been on the increase throughout the country.

The organizations have developed various strategies aimed at redressing the situation to ensure that girls realize their full potential on the hope that they will become empowered women, who will contribute equally in nation building. At national leadership level, there has been strong political commitment to ensure all children are enrolled and retained in schools.

Throughout 1990s efforts have been made to ensure 50-50 enrollment for boys and girls in primary schools. But the situation indicates that the number of girls has been declining as grades go up. Reports which have been confirmed by the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training indicate that only 30 per cent of girls who enrolled in Primary schools complete primary education.

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