Tanzania wants women’s access to justice improved to strengthen protection

Date: Friday, February 8, 2019

Some of the delegates who participated in the Arusha Stakeholders’ Forum aiming to promote and protect women’s access to justice in Tanzania. Photo: UN Women/ Tsitsi Matope
Some of the delegates who participated in the Arusha Stakeholders’ Forum aiming to promote and protect women’s access to justice in Tanzania. Photo: UN Women/ Tsitsi Matope

The need to improve women’s access to legal systems that protect their rights can indeed save lives in Tanzania.

Recently, two women from Kagera region were beaten to death allegedly by their husbands who had accused them of not cooking their meals on time. One of the suspects was arrested while the other is still on the run.

As if that was not enough, two elderly women accused of practicing witchcraft in Misenyi District, also in Kagera, escaped death by a whisker when some members of the community grievously assaulted them.

The elderly women are still receiving treatment at Mugana Hospital while investigations continue at Bwanjai police station.

The Executive Director of Tanzania Network of Legal Aid Providers (TANLAP), Ms Christina Kamili said the network has taken up the four cases to ensure justice is served. “Sadly, we lost two women. The circumstances leading to their deaths are painful and unbelievable,” Christina Kamili said, explaining how lack of legal knowledge is affecting many women and girls across the country.

“There is need to ensure that for every Tanzania woman and girl, justice is acceptable, affordable and delivered on time. If you look at the situation in most rural areas in general, you will realise that many women and girls are not aware of the steps they can take, especially when the perpetrator of violence is a loved one.”

Starting in November 2018, UN Women, through funding from the Government of Sweden, is working with TANLAP to implement a project called the Legal Aid Provision for Enhancement of Access to Justice for Women and Girls in the eight districts of Kagera.

The one-year project aims to enhance the protection of women and girls from discrimination and all forms of violence, and to increase awareness on the available services aiming to ensure equal access to justice.

Activities to be implemented this year will advocate for women and girls to stand-up for their rights, speak out and report all rights abuses to the police and to defend themselves through free legal aid services.

Ensuring that services aiming to protect women and girls are not only accessed by certain sections of the society in Tanzania dominated a two-day Stakeholders’ Forum organized by UN Women working with the Tanzania Women Judges Association (TAWJA).

The Forum, held in Arusha, discussed the International Instruments and local legal services that work to Promote and Protect Women’s Access to Justice in the country, focusing on how best to ensure that all systems are gender sensitive.

According to the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (2015/16), an estimated 40 percent of women aged 15-49 experienced physical violence while 17 percent reported to have suffered sexual violence. Only nine percent sought some assistance from the police.