By Modeckai Francis and Seif Silavia
In Tanzania, women have long been subjected to cultural, traditional and societal belief systems that discriminate against them and position them as weak and of little value in their communities.
According to Tanzania’s Legal and Human Rights Centre 2012 Report, this discrimination has become a way of life in the country. Women are constantly exploited in the community when it comes to religion, customary and cultural practices. Traditionally speaking, men are the ones that make decisions of and for women, as they are considered to be the leaders of a community.
Traditional practices, such as Female Genital Mutilation, still exist in various African countries including Tanzania. In some communities, it is even considered to be a sign of beautification of women. Despite now being criminalized, it persists as a traditional practice in regions like Mara, Manyara, Arusha, Singida and Dodoma.
Dominick Wambura Mwita, a father of two daughters, said “I took my two daughters from their grandmother in our village because I fear they could take my daughters and perform this. In our village it seems to be a normal practice.”
He also said that the communities should unite together to speak out against the practice because it is inhumane, barbaric and a form of torture to women.
A woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said “I am a victim of these practices. They forced me to accept it because they said it is a symbol of being a real woman, and since I was young it was difficult to avoid it.”
The aforementioned 2012 LHRC Report states that Female Genital Mutilation (or FGM) is normally associated with ceremonies, and in 2012 such ceremonies were conducted in nearly all districts of the Mara region in Northern Tanzania. It was reported than more than four thousand school girls were mutilated during their long holidays in December of 2012.
Female Genital Mutilation is a form of violence against women, indistinguishable with other forms of torture and other physical exploitation like rape. According to Tanzania’s Penal Laws, FGM to a girl under the age of 18 years constitutes a criminal offence.
The 2012 Report detailed a case of one mutilator, Bhoke Wambura from Masurura Village in Butiama, Mara region, who was arrested and charged for mutilating two school girls in November of 2012. He was ordered to pay 5,000 Tshillings as a fine, the equivalent of 3 USD.
Since the act is generally practiced in secrecy, it is the role of citizens to ensure that this inhumane act is stopped and that proper education is provided to those who practice it.
Modeckai is the former Project Director of AIESEC-SAUT and also a former Project Adviser of the Sauti ya Watoto Foundation. He loves working with different projects to explore and develop his potential and knowledge of diverse societal perspectives, especially those concerning the respect of all human rights.
Seif is currently pursuing his studies in Journalism at St. Augustine University of Tanzania and hopes to become a professional journalist who will be capable of addressing the problems of the voiceless in his community.