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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

Why Tanzania`s Child Act is still wanting

17th December 2012
TANLAP Executive Director Christina Kamili at a meeting on child right at Pugu

It is three years now since the Tanzanian Government has adopted the Child Act, the law that enforces an International Convention on the Rights of Children at a local context, however the situation of Children’s rights has remained a challenge in the country…

Of cause, this breakthrough legislation effectively domesticates the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) and provides the legal framework through which the rights of the country’s children can be protected and realized.

Challenges facing children remains constant, more or less in town and cities and there are areas reported with new cases of violence, harassments and abuses of children’s rights.

To compliment government efforts towards address the challenge a number of non-government organizations have been established.

Kipawa, Msongola and Pugu residents in Ilala districts Dar es Salaam region believe that the current challenges facing children; children abandonments, commercial sex practices, mistreatments, unfair employments, abuses among others is fueled with limited access to legal services providers.

According to them, limited legal aid providers have amicably resulted to low and minimal awareness on the fundamental human rights in the country.

Lenard Katamba residing at Msongola ward says in his residential area the majority aren’t aware of fundamental rights.

The situation worsens especially when it comes to limited areas where individuals could be informed of their rights.

“We can only thank the Tanzania Network of Legal Aid Providers (TANLAP) for setting up ward centres for providing legal aids in neighbouring villages,” he said.

Already TANLAP has reported that nearly three in every four women in Pugu, Msongola and Kipawa wards in Ilala district, Dar es Salaam region face gender violence and sexual abuse in the household.

Tanlap’s Executive Director, Christina Kamili in her observation says domestic violence faces many families in the country.

“We always receive reports from key partner organisations working in the same field on domestic violence. Unfortunately a number of reported cases include childhood pregnancies, marriage and gender based violence,” she said calling on the general public to support and make use of legal service providers for their benefit.

In adding she said “We can both think, why should we have commercial sexe or children with no permanent settlement in Dar es Salaam?”

“This is because when a woman is finally out of control or limited support from her husband the first person to be affected is a child and later the mother herself. She may resort into some behaviours to acquire some financial assistance to support her family.

According to TANLAP director, the organization decided to set up some centres in the region, starting with Ilala district in a move to sensitize on the fundamental rights of a child.

Attending one of the planned meeting to elect representatives of the centre who were later trained by TANLAP experienced legal aid officers Ratifa Mlawa, Hassan Ally, and Bernard Lucas told the guardian in an interview that availability of legal aid providing centers at their wards will facilitate resolve conflicts between families and individuals.

In an interview, they said what was needed wasf or the ward executive office to facilitate a room for the establishment of ward centres to providr legal aid to the community it surrounds.

But Davis Mwaikamba, elected a legal aid provider at Kipawa centre is optimistic that the community needs to play its role in protecting the rights of the child.

He says low awareness on the basic fundamental rights to all groups has affected at a great extent a child and a woman and that when the community is aware of human rights children and their mothers would be saved.

Despite some impressive intervention being taken by the government in town to address the situation, still more and immediate action are highly demanded in rural and marginalized areas, TANLAP Chairman, Judith Odunga said in a recent organization’s general meeting urging the government to support its efforts to promote human rights awareness and legal literacy amongst poor and marginalised communities in the country.

A lawyer, Uti Mwang’ang’a, says majority of rural citizens are deprived of their human rights by unprofessional legal authorities simply because they lack knowledge.

Mwang’ang’a insisted the importance of collaboration between private institutions, government and legal authorities so as to ensure that rural dwellers have access to legal services.

Reports said after the installment of the centres in three different wards in Ilala district, the network will be linking the centres with other organizations with expertise in the field of legal services that include Legal and Human Right Centre (LHRC).

Founded in 2006, TANLAP has over 20 full and committed registered member organizations working in the field of legal aid providing services in the country.

Representing members of the community at the meeting, Ratifa Mlawa, Hassan Ally, and Bernard Lucas told The Guardian in an interview that availability of legal aid providing centers at their wards will facilitate resolution between conflicting families and individuals.

They said the implementation of the strategy would reduce case congestion at the primary court and the nearby police post.

However the government is working on modalities for the enactment of a law to enable poor people to access free legal services according to Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda at a ceremony to commemorate Human Right Day, the worldwide ceremony celebrated on every 10th of December.

The premier said the government had already formed a legal aid secretariat to coordinate all legal aid services in the country.

“The current law favours only those persons accused of criminal cases but the new law will also cover civil case to ensure that justice is done to all people. Our party manifesto has directed that the system be established to enable poor individuals to access legal aid by using paralegals in primary courts,” Pinda said.

In local context therefore, rights of the child law reflects many of the most serious challenges facing children in Tanzania today. It addresses such issues as non-discrimination, the right to a name and nationality, the rights and duties of parents, the right to opinion and the right to protection from torture and degrading treatment.

The law lays out the system for ensuring justice for children, whether they come into contact with the legal system as offenders, witnesses or victims. And it defines processes to ensure protection for children without families, including international adoption.



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