Multi-pronged approach necessary to end sexual violence Rape continues to be the most frequently reported serious crime in Tanzania. A multi-pronged approach is underway to reduce sexual and gender-based violence.
Cecilia Chilo, a young mother of three, lives on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s commercial capital.
A primary school dropout, Cecilia says when she was a teen, she became pregnant.
"My parents put me out of their house because they could not bear the shame of me getting pregnant," she says.
She says when she was 15 she moved in with the baby's father and he began to beat her. Cecilia says she accepted the beatings until she heard Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) activists talking on the radio one day about how sexual and gender-based violence was not acceptable.
"It was tough," Cecilia explains. "They were speaking directly about me. In actual fact, they seemed to address me face to face.”
The women activists were from TAMWA and Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), which promote women's rights through the media. She says the radio programme encouraged her to report domestic violence to the police.
"Before that my husband would beat me and I would accept it," she says. "But nowadays, I report my husband to the police when he beats on me or tries to beat me because I know it is domestic violence. He doesn't beat me anymore," she says with a smile.
TAMWA, TGNP and other women organizations have been proactive about fighting sexual and gender-based violence. The Tanzania government and the United Nations jointly committed to reducing gender-based violence by 30 percent by the end of 2011.
The Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children also has a special unit dedicated to tackling sexual and gender-based violence, which aims to coordinate violence prevention and response.
Despite the enactment of the Sexual Offences Special Provision Act of 1998, many Tanzanian women still face violence daily.
Sexual and gender-based violence is accepted as an integral part of gender relations, according to a joint government and U.N. report. Some men in Tanzania use sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon to oppress women.
Rape continues to be the most frequently reported serious crime against women, with nearly half of the cases reported involve children under 18.
Almost half--45 percent--of Tanzanian women ages 15 to 49 say they have experienced physical violence, according to studies. Gender-based violence also includes sexual violence, verbal abuse, restrictions in freedom of movement and withholding of funds.
Women are socialized to accept, tolerate, rationalize and remain silent about violence, according to surveys done by women rights organizations. Tanzania’s weak justice system, pervasive poverty and a lack of economic opportunities for perpetrators have made the country especially vulnerable to sexual and gender-based violence, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
However, efforts of the women's media association and other women's organisations are beginning to bear fruit.
Alakok Mayombo, a female journalist with Nipashe, a daily tabloid published by the The Guardian Limited, says the efforts have helped girls and women like Cecilia to reject violence.
"I am happy that I can hear a 14-year-old girl stand out and talk about her rights as a woman, which was never the case before the enactment of the Sexual Offences law," she says.
The Tanzania Women Lawyers Association is another non-governmental organization working to put an end to sexual and gender-based violence in Tanzania.
"Our role in stopping sexual and gender-based violence is advocating for women who have been violated and to represent victims at the court," says a member of the organization.
She says her organization's campaigns have influenced the justice system here.
Tanzania gender activists are now campaigning for repeal of the 1971 Marriage Act which allows girls under 15 to get married.