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Shortage of dormitories and search for fortune fuel schoolgirl rapes in Iramba

2nd May 2012
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School girls in class. Some men in Iramba district rape school children in the search for wealth. (File photo)

Lack of dormitories for secondary schools and deceitful traditional healers have been mentioned as some of the factors contributing to increased rape cases in Iramba district, Singida region.

Most of the reported cases in the area involve young girls and some greedy people harbouring dreams of accumulating wealth through unlawful means.

Statistics from the Kiomboi District Court show that there were 22 rape cases in the district from January 2011 to April this year.

This was revealed recently in a survey conducted by The Guardian in collaboration with the Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA).

The study was meant to check the size of the problem of gender-based violence in Iramba district.

Grace Mesaki, the Iramba District Commissioner, said that rape incidences mostly occur to secondary school girls.

"Rape incidences to secondary schoolgirls are fueled by lack of dormitories as most secondary schools lack dormitories and the schools are located far from the villages," she said, adding "parents are forced to hire rooms for their children just close to the schools.'

"Even rooms considered as dormitories are not safe, as a result men force their way inside and rape girls."

Mesaki added: "Some cases are taken to court but we usually face difficulties in getting the suspects due to lack of evidence and co-operation from the girls.”

Elisha Makala, the Nguvumali Village Executive Officer in Ndago ward said such incidences are fuelled by traditional healers who influence greedy villagers to rape young girls or children under 18 years to accumulate wealth.

Amani Yumbya, the Kisiriri Village Executive Officer, said rape is sometimes caused by dishonest traditional healers as they persuade people to enter into sexual relations with young girls so that they become rich overnight.

Every year, Yumbya said, Kisirisiri village records a single rape case.

Iramba District Social Welfare Officer, Hezron Msure was more concerned with villagers' reluctance to report such incidences to the police because of the inherent fear that their culprits would be prosecuted and imprisoned.

He said when a rape case is taken to the court, most of the girls never show up during its hearing. "The girls hesitate to testify simply because they expect the suspects to marry them," he explained.

“Sometimes girls are raped by family members…parents decide to resolve the matter amicably at home over fears of their relatives being imprisoned,” Msure testified.

Beatrice Jacob Mashausi, a nurse at Ujungu village dispensary in Mtenkete village, confirmed to have received two rape cases this year. She said rapes normally occur when girls go for cattle rearing in the bush, and are done by men aged between 15 and 35 years.

She said one of the girls who were raped while rearing cattle was aged 11 while the other was 15. The rapists took advantage of the 15-year-old who was mentally disturbed and raped her while playing near her parents’ house.

“We're restricted from providing medical treatment to raped girls… they are all referred to the district hospital though we advise them to first report the matter to the nearby police station,” she said.

A nurse at Kisiriri ward dispensary, Christina Mumbiga, said that last year a 13-year-old girl was raped while rearing cattle.

At Kisiriri dispensary raped girls are provided with contraceptives to prevent them from getting pregnant before being referred for further treatment at the district hospital.

Dr Jabir Juma, the acting Iramba District Medical Officer, said most of the raped girls are exposed to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and in some cases they are infected with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

Dr Jabir said that once received at the hospital, raped girls undergo laboratory tests before they are provided with any kind of medical treatment. The girls are then given antiretroviral drugs to protect them from HIV infection.

Known as Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), the drugs are given to the victims within 72 hours after rape after which they continue using the drugs for a month before going for a second checkup.

Rabecca Mpinga, a Forestry Officer at Kisiriri ward, said to end such cruel acts in the society there is a need for local leaders to educate people in their respective areas on the consequences of rape.

A resident of Lunsanga village in Mtenkente ward, Vicky Edward, underscored the need for people to change their mindset and work hard in order to be rich instead of depending on help from traditional healers.

“We can only improve our living standards and become rich by working hard. There is no shortcut in life…you can rape a child and remain poor,” said Edward.

However, Mwanahawa Kidunda, the chairperson of the Women’s Police Desk at Kiomboi police station urged court to mete out severe punishments to convicted rapists.

"Rape cases should only be handled at the women’s police desk, where victims can openly reveal how the incidents happened,” she noted.

She said sometimes rape victims fear to report such occurrences because they feel ashamed to explain the matter to male officers. There should be a women’s desk at every police post,” Kidunda advised.

She said there are a number of rape cases which have not been taken to court for lack of evidence. "Poverty can be one of the reasons some victims conspire with the suspects so that they are given money," she hinted.

A court Record Management Assistant, Gerald Ng’wandu said that all suspects were sentenced and punished separately according to the Sexual Offences Act.

SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN
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