—an everyday thing in Zanzibar.
Barely a day passes in Zanzibar without the report of a case of violence against women and girls. It is widely believed, however, that many cases go unreported. And the numbers keep going up.
GBV in the Indian Ocean archipelago takes the form of physical, mental, social or economic abuse against a person because of that person’s gender and includes violence that may result in physical, sexual or psychological harm and suffering to the victim. It may also include threats or coercion, or the arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether in public or private life.
Salma Amir Lusangi, policy analyst and advocacy manager at the Tanzania Media Women Association (TAMWA-Zanzibar), said between January 2019 and August 2020, a total of 761 GBV and child abuse cases were reported at various police stations in the Isles.
Those cases, she said were of various kinds of gender based violence and child abuse whereby over 649 children were physically and sexually abused while 147 were sodomized.
Salma said despite this number of children who were physically and sexually abused, only four cases resulted in convictions of the perpetrators who received jail sentences while 370 cases were still under investigations at various police stations.
She said 123 cases are in courts while 80 have been closed, 48 cases still at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) while 16 suspects were set free.
According to her, of the 147 cases of sodomy on under age children only one suspect was convicted and found guilty and received prison sentence while 93 cases were still at various police stations in Zanzibar and Pemba, while 15 cases were closed and six were still at the DPP office.
However she revealed that investigations done by TAMWA-Zanzibar found out that 88 under-age girl students were impregnated and dismissed from schools in the period 2017-2019.
Statistics from the Ministry of Education show that in the period 2017-2019 50 under age children were forcibly married off, she said, suggesting the need for tougher punishments against the culprits.
“It is possible to have a Zanzibar that is free from any forms of violence. This can be reality if the government and stakeholders work closely together,” she declared.
SOS Children's Village in Zanzibar Director, Asha Salim said that many children face a number of challenges that need to be addressed.
“We’re appealing to the government authorities to takes various efforts including coming up with laws, policies and plans to protect children against all sorts of violence, but yet such cruel acts against them are on the rise in the Isles,” he said.
She insisted on parents and guardians to properly take up their parental roles as per international conventions ratified by both the Union and Zanzibar governments.
Apart from protecting children against violence, parents are expected to provide them with necessary needs and ensure their basic rights to education, medical treatment and being heard.
“The government should ensure proper supervision and implementation of the laws and policies to enhance children protection,” the director noted.
On behalf of her fellow students from Kajificheni School, Salamu Mohamed said many children face with various challenges in regard to rape and other acts of sexually abuse including sodomy, the situation that he said was not conducive in studying.
She also said the many children failed to realise their life dreams due to early marriages.
Chairman of the Zanzibar Commission charged in amending various laws, Judge Mshibe Ali Bakari said together with various efforts from various institutions, there was still a challenge among the community over lack of awareness in controlling these acts and that is the reason for the large number of under-age marriages.
In regard of acts of sexual abuse, he said: “If the child is sexually abused, even if the law takes its course, still the child will live with pain and impairment for the rest of his/her life, the only remedy was for the community to ensure their children should not under these vile acts.”
Twenty-five years ago, some 30,000 women and men from nearly 200 countries arrived in Beijing, China, for the Fourth World Conference on Women, determined to recognize women's rights as human rights. The conference culminated in the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: the most comprehensive policy agenda for gender equality.
In the years following, women pressed this agenda forward, leading global movements on issues ranging from sexual and reproductive health rights to equal pay.
Today, these movements have expanded. They are being organized by and for adolescent girls – girls from all walks of life who are boldly demanding action against discrimination, violence and poor learning opportunities.