Rape, Sexual Violence Prompt Grave Concerns In Zanzibar

By Staff Reporter

SEXUAL violence against women and children has been in focus here since the launch of National Plan of Action to End Violence (NPAEV) in August 2017, but there is little indication that crimes against women are abating.

The campaign has literally proved to be effective and very productive, mainly with increased people’s awareness of reporting violence and incidents of abuse. But statistics on abuse remain disturbing prompting call for concerted efforts to protect children and women.

According to government statistics collected from the police, about 1,091 abuses and violence-related incidents were reported to various police stations in Unguja and Pemba in 2017/2018, compared to 2,449 incidents that were reported in 2016/2017.

rape victims

While in 2019, a total of 941 violence and abuse-related incidents were reported to the Police in all the regions. This figure represents a decrease of 150 incidents compared to the incidents which occurred in 2018.

The data reveals further that a total of 1,028 violence and abuse-related cases were filed to the regional courts in the last 9 years, of which 630 cases were decided and 398 are still awaiting trial (Decem ber 2019).

During the celebration of the 56th anniversary of the Zanzibar Revolution, rape and abuse were also included in President Ali Mohamed Shein’s speech, highlighting the problem as a social burden that needs collective commitment.

“Do not leave this task for the government to act alone. Concerted efforts are required to ensure our children and women live in peace. It is a shame for our country to continue recording sexual abuse and other offences against the vulnerable groups,” Dr Shein said.

He says his government has attained notable achievements since it came into power on 3rd November 2010, but the problem of violence against women and children needs further action.

Dr Shein said “We have gained impressive successes in the implementation of our development plans, including the Zanzibar Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (ZSGRP- I, II and III), CCM Election Manifesto 2015-2020, Zanzibar Development Vision 2020 and other International Development Plans.”

He said successes achieved are the result of combined efforts that have been put forth by our two Governments, our development partners and various international organisations. The achievement is also a product of accountability and good leadership at different levels with the wholehearted support of the citizenry.

The minister responsible for children and women affairs Ms Maudline Cyrus Castico says successes achieved in various development programmes are being stained by ongoing stories about Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

“We cannot celebrate success while sexual violence is becoming a serious problem. It is sad that children are raped and only a few perpetrators are brought to justice and imprisoned,” the Minister says. Last week an eight-year-old girl, a rape victim, was found helpless in a bush.

She was on her way home after attending school, according to preliminary remarks. Rape, defilement and other sexual assaults are now commonly reported in the local media, both from urban and villages, but arguably with many children under the age of 16 victims of the abuse.

Experts define sexual abuse as any form of forced or unwanted sexual activity. The perpetrator of sexual abuse may use physical force, make threats or take advantage of a person unable to give consent. Sexual abuse mainly happens between people who know each other and can occur in the context of domestic violence.

 It has great impacts on a person’s physical and emotional health, and it can lead to long-term mental health issues, including anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

The common types of sexual abuse include rape, anal defilement, assaulting the genitals, forced sex without protection against pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs), using sexually degrading insults, unwanted touching, unwanted exposure to pornography and sexual jokes.

UNICEF has been exploring ways to better address the issue by contributing to the broader efforts of the United Nations system, led by the UN Secretary-General, to strengthen the reporting of sexual exploitation and abuse, and to increase transparency around the issue.

According to the UNICEF, sexual abuse against women and children can happen in homes, institutions, schools, workplaces, in travel and tourism facilities, within communities – both in development and emergency contexts as well as in non-emergency contexts in developed countries.

Increasingly, the internet and mobile phones also put children at risk of sexual violence as some adults look to the internet to pursue sexual relationships with children. There is also an increase in the number and circulation of images of child abuse.

Children themselves also are engaged in love affairs and send each other sexualized messages or images on their mobile phones, so-called ‘sexting’, which puts them at risk for other abuse. It is to this context that UNICEF is supporting several projects aiming at reducing or ending abuse against women and children in the country.

This includes the one- year project on ‘Child Rights’ and ethical reporting’ being implemented by the Jumuiya ya Wandishi wa Habari za Maendeleo Zanzibar (WAHAMAZA).

WAHAMAZA is an association of Journalists focusing on reporting development programmes in Zanzibar and the project which started March last year is scheduled to end next month after series of training and field works of some fifteen Journalists to become champions in reporting child rights-related stories.

 The Journalists selected from different media outlets print, electronic and social media from both Unguja and Pemba Islands are expected, after the successful project funded by the UNICEF, to find and report stories about the Rights of Children and Women.

Human rights activists and defenders highly believed that proper reporting, in which incidents are exposed, are among the best ways of fighting Gender-Based Violence GBV) and other abuses because perpetrators are exposed and charged in Court.

It is said that sexual violence against children and women is a gross violation of their rights. Yet it is a global reality across all countries and social groups. It can take the form of sexual abuse, harassment, rape or sexual exploitation in prostitution or pornography.

Journalists have been asked to read widely mainly laws and policies regarding child rights to have better reporting about child rights. “Journalists need to understand laws and policies regarding child and women rights so that stories are well covered.”

While journalists and the media, in general, have been working hard to address violence against children and women, members of the society are being asked to change behaviour by improving morale and ensuring that all children enjoy their life.

Source: Tanzania Daily News

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