Tanzanian police ignore sexual crimes pleas

Perpetrators committing sexual and physical abuse of women ignored by Zanzibar police in Tanzania

Photo by: Care Pathways Organization
Photo by: Care Pathways Organization

Updated Jul 28, 2015

A man accused of grabbing and then sexually abusing [raping] a 14-year-old girl was released due to a lack of evidence in semi archipelago of Zanzibar in Tanzania, Reuters has reported.

Natasha Ali’s daughter was abducted as she was touring through an area in Mkunazini in the old part of Zanzibar in May last year, dragged to an unoccupied ruin and raped.

A case was prepared against a man who was arrested and transferred to a prison temporarily. But the man was released due to lack of evidence.

According to women’s rights activists, the outcome of the case is too often in Tanzania.

"I knew in the end justice would not be done for my daughter who has suffered untold psychological torture," Ali, 42, who works in seaweed harvesting, told the Reuters in an interview in Zanzibar.

Half of women under the age of 50 in Tanzania claim to have been physically or sexually abused. Official figures show one in three girls under the age of 18 experienced sexual violence, while 70 percent suffered physical violence, but few go to the police.

In at least seventy percent of the cases in Zanzibar, the court dismisses the case not because it failed to establish that intercourse did take place, but because it suspects that there was a more sinister motive on the part of the parent or guardian of the victim to bring the case forward. 

According to a report published by Concerned Africa Scholars, this was the case when a mother tried to bring her son’s school teacher before the law after she suspected him of sodomizing her son. Effectively, the legal battle ceases to be about the victim, and is transformed to be about settling scores between the accused and the parents of the victim.

A study of Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA) shows that in Tanzania, men committed sex crimes in 2014, often walked free due to a lack of evidence and because victims refused to testify to avoid the shame and stigma attached to rape and police ill-equipped to deal with such cases.

A 21-year-old woman, who came to Zanzibar as a teenager in 2012 to work as a domestic maid in the Kiembe Samaki area, is planning to file a complaint at Malindi police gender desk against a former boss whom she claims sexually abused her.

"The working conditions were so harsh. At some point my boss was forcing me to have sex with him, but when I refused he sacked me without paying me," she told Reuters in an interview in Zanzibar.

Rape and defilement in Zanzibar is a much bigger problem than it is spoken, officials from the Ministry of Social Welfare, Youths, Children, and Women Development say, "it is an outcry yet perpetrators remain at liberty."

In Zanzibar, many cases  go unreported and the perpetrators are arrested and then released in an out-of court agreement with victim's parents. This has been a common practice in many areas particularly in villages.

"Rape is a crisis; cases of defilement and rape are the sex crimes reported frequently. It seems thriving, with female and children, and elderly women falling victims. What can we do?" Ms Sharifa Maulid, communication officer from the ministry says.

"It is unfortunate that people we think would protect children, turn against them. Rape and defilement is committed even by teachers in schools. Who is to save the children?" she adds. 

Sharifa says that there are many cases where rape and defilement has led to death, instability in the family, children dropping out of school, and health complications including trauma, contraction of HIV/Aids, and terminal illness.

TRTWorld and agencies