Women in Tanzania continue to be victims of gender based violence (GBV) despite a law being in place which punishes anyone found guilty of the crime.
Surprisingly about 60 percent of women in the country have been victims of violent beatings, and others in some extreme cases end up dying.
One such example is 21-year-old Esther Grayson (not her real name), who is fighting for her dear life at Mwananyamala Hospital in Dar es Salaam’s Kinondoni District, following a severe beating by her partner. Esther had her back continuously stabbed with a knife to the point of fainting.
Esther’s dilemma started soon after she moved in with her husband (name withheld). “When he asked for my hand in marriage, my parents required him to pay a thirty thousand shillings dowry,” she disclosed.
“Since he did not have the money at the time, he suggested that we start living together until he raised money for the dowry. I left my sister’s place in Kimara Bonyokwa where I used to live and joined him in Bagamoyo, Coast Region where we stayed together for about a month,” narrates Esther.
Shortly after paying the dowry, the couple had a disagreement which led to temporary separation. Esther decided to go back to her sister in Kimara Bonyokwa.
“He wanted us to reconcile but I refused. He tried to even talk to my sister to convince me to go back to him but I wasn’t ready. That’s when he asked to be given the dowry back or my phone,” narrated Esther.
On that fateful day when Esther was stabbed by her husband, he had gone to visit her and they had conversed until around 10pm when he decided to leave. Esther asked him to wait so she could go inside to get him his money, which he had earlier demanded for.
“When I stood up to go inside, he immediately stabbed my back with a knife over and over again before running away. I fainted and was rescued by neighbours who rushed to my aid and quickly took me to the police station and then to hospital.
Esther’s husband is yet to be arrested to-date. “I remained unconscious for some days and when I regained conscious, I was surprised to hear he was still at large,” said Esther.
Speaking from her hospital bed in Mwananyamala, Esther said she regrets having fallen in love with the man, adding: “I truly regret and wish I had listened to my parents advice. They had wanted me to take time to know this man before rushing into marriage. I have learnt my lesson the hard way but I am asking for their forgiveness,” says Esther who is still nursing her wounds.
Her elder sister said Esther’s estranged husband had called her a few days after committing the crime. “Two days after stabbing my sister, he called and asked me whether Esther had died,” Esther’s sister, Malaika said.
Esther calls upon the police as well as the community to assist her in apprehending the suspect so he can face the law.
She advises girls to listen to their parents’ advice when it comes to marriage and also not to rush into marriage but take time to know their husbands to be.
A recent survey conducted by Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) in April 2012 shows that 39 percent of women in the country have been victims of GBV thus limiting women’s development.
According to the law against humanity chapter 16 of 2002 sub sec 240, any person who beats anyone is liable for offence and shall be confined for one year in jail.
This penalty is used in an instance where the person beaten has not been physically harmed but in such a case where someone has been physically harmed sub section 241 of the law against humanity confines the person who commits the crime to five years in jail.
Halima Ibrahim, an officer at the Kinondoni District’s Wazo Hill police post’s gender desk for women and children, acknowledges that the number of GBV cases involving women being beaten is on the rise.
In 2010 a total of 12 cases were reported to the Wazo hill police post but not a single case was taken to court. Eight women last year complained of being beaten but again no case was taken to court.
One reason the suspects do not end up in court is because they run away and because some victims (women) later cancel the cases when the perpetrators apologise.
It is important that strict measures are put in place so that all those who commit GBV related crimes which affect women mostly are brought before the courts of law to face judgement. Violence against women not only inflicts physical harm but also affects the women mentally thus affecting their service delivery.
Men also need to change their mindset and realise that women are equally important in society and should therefore be respected. Only then will cases like that of Nasra Mohammed from Bunda in Mara Region, who died last month, can be avoided.
It is alleged that Nasra Mohammed’s husband deliberately knocked her down with his car following some squabble. She was admitted to Bugando referral hospital in Mwanza and later transferred to Muhimbili National Hospital in Dar es Salaam, where she succumbed to her injuries last month. Surprisingly, Nasra’s husband still remains at large.
• Happiness Bagambi is a journalist with the Tanzania Media Women Association (Tamwa)