Protecting a little one against rape and sexual violence is a better way to have a safe home and safe community for young girls than protecting your family from shame. It has been common in our community here in Tanzania for young girls to face difficulties because of their gender. From early marriage, to “dowry over education”, girls are constantly victims of crime committed by predators.
In the last month, Inherit Your Rights legal aid advocates had 4 reports of rape and sexual violence against young girls.
Photo credit Steven Depolo
1. A young girl who is in standard three at school was raped, at Engikareti and the predator is nowhere to be found. The mother reported the crime to the police but so far, no one has been arrested. The mother of the child, who reported the crime, has been threatened by clan members (her own family) and told not to cooperate with the police office. Rather, they prefer that customary law solve the matter. This would entail, the family of the perpetrator coming and apologizing to the family of the victim and giving some goats or cows as payment for the offense.
2. Another case we received reported that her father sexually abused a young 3 yr old girl. The parents of the little girl are separated and every time the father has custody of his daughter he is sexually abusing her. The mother is going to have a difficult time proving the matter and the situation may also end up in a custody row. Therefore, there is a high possibility that the child might end up in social welfare while the court decides what is in the best interests of the child.
3. A small 6 yr old girl in Njiro died after the injuries and grievous bodily harm she sustained after rape. The young man and perpetrator, is nowhere to be found and the parents of the victim have yet to receive justice or closure.
4. There are also a lot of pregnancy cases that have been reported where young girls have been impregnated while attending their boarding school. This results in them being expelled from school and predators disappear without being arrested. In most cases, girls from school are being impregnated by Boda Boda drivers (motorbike taxi riders), and other young men who are jobless and not able to take responsibilities. In many cases, parents would want to resolve the matter via customary law without taking a proper legal action. This is partly due to the fact that they don’t want to bring shame on their family with a public acknowledgement of pregnancy outside of marriage but also the burden of shame is mostly on the girl and society judges them harshly.
According to Tanzania laws having sex with girl under 18 years old even if she is consented is consider to be rape, most of young girls at school are being rape and ended up being pregnant and lost their dreams because it won’t be possible to proceed with school. And many cases are not solved because of lack of evidence or predators run away.
What can be done?
The following measures would help defend young girls;
- Parents should educate with their children so that they know how to protect themselves against sexual violence by having the “sex talk”.
- Families should consider justice for their daughter to be of greater importance than protecting the family reputation.
- School should also provide informative education on reproductive health, especially about the age of consent and the repercussions for sex with underage minors.
- The couple involved in the pregnancy and the care of the unborn child, birth and future of the child should take equal responsibility.