By Abraham Ntambara
The violation of children’s rights in Tanzania have become a pervasive problem that impacts children in all spheres of their life regardless of international legal documents under the United Nations that protect children from threats such as sexual abuse and exploitation.
According to the Legal and Human Rights Centre’s (LHRC) 2012 Human Rights Report, children in Tanzania continue to be victims of physical violence and sexual abuse with perpetrators that nearly always parents, close relatives and neighbours. The trend of children’s rights being violated is increasing despite the Law of the Child Act that was instituted in 2009.
The aforementioned 2012 Report indicates that various regions have had a considerable number of brutalities reported against children. For example, in Mpwapwa, a district court convicted a mother to five years imprisonment for deliberately causing bodily harm to her own son. The mother inflicted harm by using a razor blade, blaming her child to have stolen five hundred shillings. Also reported is an increase of sexual abuse against children, especially in the form of rape. In 1998, the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act was enacted and imposes heavy punishment for rape. However, such incidents continue to rise.
One of the weaknesses in implementing this law is based on conflicting ideas between medical and legal interpretation of the law. The law describes the offence in the way that even a slight penetration counts as rape. However, medical doctors require a rapture of hymen, bruising and remaining semen for them to diagnose a child as a victim of rape.
For example, LHRC made a follow up of a case involving a little girl and a boy aged between 3 and 5 years. These children were nursery school students at Chanika-Zingiziwa Street in Dar es Salaam. The children were alleged to have been raped and the incident was reportedi at Ukonga Sitaki Shari Police Post. It was investigated and the charge was sent to the D.P.P but charges were dropped for want of prosecution despite the medical doctors indicating that they had been raped. However, on another follow up of the matter, the accused person himself confessed to the parents and was willing to settle the matter out of the court as the result the police’s failure to take further steps.
Loyce Lema, the Information Director of the Environmental Human Rights Care and Gender Organization at Makongo Juu, in reference to this publication said, “boys and girls who live and work on the streets are vulnerable to wide and extreme violations of their rights. They have difficulties accessing any of their basic needs and are verbally, physically and sexually abused. Although these boys and girls may have a range of skills related to survival and informal income generation, these strengths remain unarticulated and unrecognized by mainstream society. This combined with the fact that few of them have benefited from sustained formal education, means that these children generally find it very difficult to earn money legally. Faced with this situation, many are forced into crime and confrontation with the general public.”
She continued to say, “a great number of these boys and girls seek temporary relief from their situation through substance abuse. They become trapped in a cycle of poverty, violence and abuse . They are socially excluded, highly visible, mobile and increasing in number. They are unable to access basic needs including school, food,clothes and shelter.”
Why are these violations against children continuing when there are protective laws in place?
Advocate Salvatory Mayunga, in reference to the same report said “the trend of violations has continued because the country has a high population of children, over 20 million people approximately, and improper ministerial arrangements. For instance, children’s affairs are currently being handled by three different ministries. These are ministries of Health and Social Welfare, Community Development, Gender and Cultural, Youth and Sports. This leads to a loss of focus or responsibility. Also, a lack of linkage between these ministries and the ministry of home affairs and the police department, especially the Gender and Children desk.”
According to him those are some of the reasons as to why the law fails to effectively promote and command respect for the rights and welfare of the children in the country.
In order to solve this issue there is a need to build the conduct capacity of medical doctors for proving rape incidents and law enforcement agencies to reduce rape cases that occur day to day. This continues due to the fact that there is a lack of serious action taken against those accused, and as a result still this issue continues to affect innocent children.
Abraham is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication at St. Augustine University of Tanzania. He believes in helping the voiceless people in society.