Tanzania: Establish Gender Desks At Varsities - Minister

MINISTER of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children Ummy Mwalimu has directed the management of all higher learning institutions in the country to establish gender desks with a view to curbing sexual violence at campuses.

This follows recent criminal incidents at different universities, where lecturers have been accused of demanding sexual favours from students, mainly female students, to facilitate their passing of examinations.

"Sexual violence still a problem in the country, but the government has taken steps to end the vice and ensure perpetrators are held accountable," said the minister.

She noted that incidents of sexual violence were on the rise, especially at higher learning institutions, where female students found themselves in a dilemma when their lecturers threatened them that they would fail if they didn't offer sexual favours.

"In this regard, I direct the management of all higher learning institutions across the country to establish gender desks which will provide education and counseling to students and take appropriate steps against perpetrators of sexual violence," she said adding: "I was very happy recently when the University of Dodoma (Udom) Vice-Chancellor admitted that there were such incidents at his facility."

Although Ms Mwalimu did not cite it, the Kisutu Resident Magistrates' Court in Dar es Salaam Monday sentenced an assistant lecturer with National Institute of Transport (NIT), Samson Mahimbo, to three years imprisonment for demanding a sexual favour from a student.

The minister was speaking on International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and during the launch of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Based Violence (GBV) Campaign at Jamhuri grounds in the country's capital city.

At the event, the United Nations (UN) expressed continued support to the government of Tanzania and ensure women and children were safe from all forms of violence.

UN Women Representative Hodan Addou said yesterday that in partnership with other stakeholders like civil society organisations and the private sector, the UN would reinforce its partnership with the government and remain committed to the successful implementation of the National Plan of Action to end Violence against Women and Children (2017-2022).

"We will also continue supporting the effective implementation of laws, policies and other investments to prevent and respond to GBV, such as building capacity to police gender and children desks and collaborative efforts with traditional and religious leaders and men and women to champion social norms that negatively affect women and girls," she noted.

This year's theme for International Day for Violence against Women is "Orange the World: Generation Equality Stand Against Rape."

According to Ms Addou, the theme reminds people of the disturbing far-reaching consequences of sexual violence on families, communities, countries and future generations.

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