Domestic violence against women in Tanzania, the never-ending story

By Maria John Mtambalike

“My husband beat me to the extent that he destroyed my one leg, but I never report anywhere because I love him and he beat me because he loves me too.”

This is one statement among many that represents a cultural acceptance of domestic abuse by a number of women in Tanzania.

Statistics shows that 85% of all victims of domestic violence are women, one among every four women experience domestic violence and those who are mostly affected are women aged between 20 to 24 years old. Most cases are never reported.

Mara is a region where a large number of domestic abuse cases are reported. This is either due to the fact that more women actually report cases of domestic violence or that they occur with a higher frequency than other regions in Tanzania. Take for example two cases that have been reported from the Mara region: one is Neema Ngoko, who was brutally beaten by her husband and locked indoors for two weeks despite her being pregnant, and Stella Nyakuboi who experienced violence leading to death inflicted by her husband out of a jealous rage.

In Dar es salaam the situation occurs, but few people have the courage to report it. Amina Rashid is among one of many women who experiences abuse by her husband because of jealousy, to the extent that is has destroyed one of her legs, however she doesn’t want to report it anywhere. She believes that beating is a part of her life and that her husband has the right to beat her because he loves her. This view is representative of a strong cultural attitude surrounding domestic abuse, where acceptance by women is strong.

Speaking with the Chairperson of Upendo Women’s Group, which was founded in Dar es Salaam, Mrs. Mbega said that “women have rights like any other person, and if anyone experiences beating from their husbands they should report it to centres like theirs or report to the police station so as to protect their rights. Husbands have no right to beat their wives because is against human rights. Women are very understanding, instead of beating them men can talk with them politely so as to reach a conclusion.”

Mr. Majaliwa, a father of four children, explained that the tendency to beat one’s wife is not good because it affects children psychologically and it can influence them to disrespect their mother, and possibly became violent later in their lives. He added that there some women who feel that to be beaten is a sign of love so they try their best to make their husband angry so as to beat them. He emphasized that education needs to be provided to women so as to know their human rights.

According to the Tanzania Legal and Human Rights Centre 2012 Human Rights Report, the Tanzanian constitution expressly provides for the rights of women. There are also police directives and programs which address issues of Gender Based Violence. For example, Tanzania’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSP) lists violence against women as one of its indicators of poverty, a feature that is rare among PRSPs in other countries. Also, the Ministry of Community, Gender and Development has established a national committee on gender based violence. Gender based violence is a criminal offence in Tanzania under Part XV of the Penal Code.

Maria is a student of Mass Communication at St. Augustine University of Tanzania, as well as a volunteer news presenter at Radio SAUT, the university’s on-campus student-run radio station. Maria’s dream is to become a journalist who focuses on human rights issues, especially those of women and children.

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