ZANZIBAR has made significant achievements in promoting peace and harmony in the country, along with the protection of children and women rights. These were in the vision 2020 which ended in June this year.
The vision was to enhance peace and stability as a necessary tool to achieve social, economic and political development. It is against the background that different NGOs, pressure groups and also public institutions joined in the campaign to fight Gender Based Violence (GBV) so that Children and women can live peacefully.
In response and support of the campaign to end violence against women and children, the government developed and operationalized the 'Zanzibar's National Action Plan to End Violence against Women and Children (VAWC) 2017-2022.'
The five-year Action plan has three thematic areas, which are prevention, enabling environment and strengthening supportive services coordination structure to handle violence against women and children.
Increased public awareness and the strengthening of the campaign have relatively helped to the reduction of incidences by 55 per cent from 2,447 cases in 2016/2017 to 1,097 cases in 2017/2018, according to the available statistics.
"Although the incidences persist, but it is worth celebrating success recorded. Thanks to both the NGOs and development partners including the UN family organizations in supporting the implementation of the vision," said Mr Hassan Khatib- Director, Communication department- State House.
According to the Minister of Constitution and legal affairs, Mr Khamis Juma Mwalim, during the implementation of the vision, various laws related to ending violence against women and children have been repealed or amended.
They include: The Evidence Act 6/2016, which among other things allows child evidence as well as admissibly electronic evidence, and the Kadhi Court Act 9/2017 contains provision on the division matrimonial assets and allow advocates to appear before the court.
Other reviewed laws include the 'Criminal Procedure Act 7/2018 section 151 (1), which has provisions that do not allow for provision of bail for any person accused of GBV related cases as well as increase of sentences.
Following the improvement of the laws, Courts may now pass and increase imprisonment time, at Regional Courts from 7 to 14 years and for High Court from 30 years to life imprisonment. The Penal Act 6/2018 increased punishment to moral related offences such as rape, sodomy and indecent assault.
The new law- Legal Aid Act 13/2018 was enacted, the Minister said. It contains specifically provision of legal aid to indigent/ rural people who cannot afford to pay for legal services, and also the Children Act No 6 of 2011 was enacted with a view to safeguard children rights and wellbeing in Zanzibar.
The Minister responsible for Women and Children affairs, Dr Maudline Cyrus Castico has praised the changes in the legal procedure aiming at helping victims of GBV get justice.
She said 'One Stop Centres have been established in Micheweni, Chake Chake, Wete, Mkoani, Mnazi Mmoja, Makunduchi, and Kivunge to provide comprehensive services to victims including health, psychosocial support and legal aid and establishment of 4 Children Courts in Unguja and Pemba.
"These changes have not ended the problem, but 'improving laws' have helped to clear the way to win the battle against GBV, and protect women and children in the country," Ms Castico says. Zanzibar implemented its development vision known as vision 2020 for the past 20 years, half of it during the regime under President Ali Mohamed Shein.
The vision aimed at improving the standard of livings of its people by building competitive economy, healthy society and establishing and implementing peace, stability and unity among its citizens.
After the implementation of the vision 2020, followed the evaluation showing that Zanzibar managed to reach the lower middle-income country, as envisaged by the Vision 2020 main target., researchers have identified the gaps that need to be addressed in 'new vision 2050'.
In addition to progress in war against GBV, other achievements were made in various economic sectors such as agriculture, services, and industry among other progress to achieve a middle-income country. But normally most of the low-income countries that rapidly graduate to middle income economy find it difficult to sustain rapid growth after they reach middle-income status.
The Permanent Secretary (PS), Ministry of Finance and Planning, Mr Khamis Mussa, argues that while we celebrate being among the middle-income economy, we need to prepare for the big task ahead of us of continuing to improve our economy to go to the next level including control of GBV.
He said that there are also consequences of being middle income including lesser grants and taking the business (market) loans instead of concessional loans, from development partners (bilateral and multilateral).
"Therefore, the new Vision 2050 should address this phenomenon very well, to ensure sustainability of the status and the wellbeing of the people. Also, to ensure Zanzibar will reach the next level of upper middle-income country of GDP per capita of between US$ 3,956 and US$ 12,235.
The 'new Vision 2050' considers new approach to policy design and implementation strategies for the areas where the implementation was not satisfactory and addresses the shortcomings identified in the Vision 2020.
Good governance and accountability including integrated public services and legal reforms, Decentralization by Devolution (D by D), fighting against corruption and promoting human rights including war against GBV, are among areas considered in the new vision.
In efforts to address incidents of violence against children and women, members of the public are being reminded that it is important to know about laws regarding offences, particularly the 'criminal procedure and evidence.'
Mr Mohamed Saleh, from the Director Public Prosecutors (DPP) office' says ignorance undermines efforts to protect children and Women, "As we fight perpetrators, many escape punishment just because victims and relatives are ignorant about laws. For example people still shun giving evidence."