‘Witchcraft beliefs dents cases against GBV and child abuse’

12Oct 2020
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
‘Witchcraft beliefs dents cases against GBV and child abuse’

​​​​​​​AS the world commemorates the International Day of the Girl Child, themed; “My voice, our equal future”, existence of the environment of witchcraft in some cases on gender based violence (GBV) and child abuse is one of the challenges facing some families and activists against-

-such incidents in Zanzibar’s Unguja North Region.

Thabit Makame Haji, Gender Desk for Unguja North Region said that more than three times they have been facing open environments pointing to witchcraft even though the cases thereof were progressing well and believed criminals would be found guilty and punished to act as lesson to others,

According to him, there was one case they dealt with since its early stages and witnesses mobilized but when the case was referred to the court; the victim could not speak a single word.

“We at the Desk were pained by the development as we saw justice was disappearing via acts of witchcraft, and true enough, the case was thrown out of court, and the suspect was found not guilty,” Haji said recently when speaking at a three-day training seminar aimed at capacity building to the society, local leaders (shehas) and other officials from various institutions involved in the fight against these incidents.

The training seminar aimed to sensitise the society against on incidents of gender based violence and child abuse conducted by Tanzania Media Women Association, Zanzibar (TAMWA-Zanzibar) in collaboration with Action Aid Zanzibar and drew in 210 participants.

He said since witchcraft is being used as a subterfuge for the criminals there was the need for the government through its institutions not to remove cases from the courts in which a witness failed to testify due to witchcraft beliefs and instead they should be adjourned.

 Haji said he believes there were certain gender based violence and child abuse incidents which were not reported at any police station in the Region because some families were instilled with witchcraft fear.

“For instance, we at the Desk received a case from one lady who reported that her child was sexually abused, and after investigations we found that the crime was committed, but surprisingly a few later the lady came to withdraw the case in fear of being bewitched,” Haji added.  

Some parents whose children were reportedly sexually abused said there were situations that sometimes make them lose all hope.

He said that one of the parents whose children were sexually abused and finally impregnated, her case is still in court since 2017 and no ruling has been issued.

“This makes her feel inferior as justice has been delayed,” desk official attested.

Health official from Kivunge Hospital in Unguja North Region, Mwajuma Makame Kombo said they issue test results immediately on any child who had been sexually abused and sent for medical examination.

In July this year, GBV incidents in Zanzibar rose to 114 as compared to June’s 102 incidents, something which calls for more collected efforts to fight the vice.

A statistician at the office of the Chief Government Statistician Ramla Hassan Pandu named West B- district as an area where most cases of child abuse were reported having 24 cases, followed by West ‘A’ district with 20 incidents and the Mjini District (19 incidents).

“Children are the victims of violence acts with the report saying that 95 children (83.3 percent) and 29 women (16.7 percent) faced the challenge. Children between the age of 15 and 17 are the one who are mostly at risk of these incidents, so more efforts should be made to address the matter,” he said when presenting a report at the forum held in Mazizini, Unguja.

He said that in the incidents, 56 women were raped, 14 children were defiled as well as other four cases of sodomy.

He noted that violence acts were not only confined to women but children as well thus needing intensive efforts to fight it as it had adverse impacts to the community and the country as a whole.

“Most of the violence cases occurred at home, so this translates that the children are being abused by people who know them or their family relatives. 94 percent of the incidents happened at home,” he added.

Pandu further said that all the incidents are under police investigation with others having taken required legal measures.

Zanzibar Mwinyi Bakari, head of crime statistics department of the Police Force said that they have been taking several measures to fight the challenge.

“This is a joint work, we should work together to ensure that we fight the vice so as to enable our children and women to live happily in a peaceful nation. We will continue working collaboratively with other organisations to fight violence in the country,” he said.