Gender Based Violence in relation to Reproductive Justice
Gender-based violence (GBV) is a grave reality in the lives of many women in Tanzania. It results from gender norms and social and economic inequities that give privilege to men over women. There is a mounting recognition in Tanzania of gender discrimination and gender inequity in different facets of life.
This awakening includes a growing acknowledgement of how prevalent gender-based violence is and the ways and extent to which it harms not only women and girls but also men and boys and, furthermore, the country’s developing economy and health and social welfare systems.
Reports from Legal Aid CSOs indicate that many forms of gender-based violence, including intimate partner violence and rape, are seen as normal and are met with acceptance by both men and women— although the justifications for acceptance differs between women and men.
Women and girls are also frequently blamed for causing or provoking gender-based violence. In part due to blame and shame, women and girls rarely report gender-based violence to authorities or seek other kinds of treatment or support.
Tanzanian law has shown some progress in preventing and punishing GBV crimes. For example, the Sexual Offence Special Provisions Act of 1998 poses harsh penalties for perpetrators of sexual violence. However, gaps remain in the legal system.
In particular, domestic violence is only minimally and vaguely addressed in The Law of Marriage Act—although without specified penalties—and through the penal codes on general violence and assault. There is no law against domestic violence, specifically.
Central to the need for the Stronger Voices initiative is women's empowerment, as the crux to strengthen women's voices for quality reproductive health care. Knowledge in Reproductive Health and Rights empowers women to make informed decisions regarding their Sexual and Reproductive health.
Despite these incipient reforms, the key informant interviews revealed that the number and quality of services and resources available to survivors of gender-based violence is minimal.
While service providers interviewed, including doctors and police, said that they respond to GBV when presented with a case, there are no protocols for working with survivors. Likewise, little training on proper protocols is available to service providers.
Legal aid services run by small nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) with limited budgets are available in cities throughout the country, but there is a wide gap in health, counseling, and social welfare services for GBV survivors. There are just two known established shelters for GBV survivors—the Young Women Christian Association and House of Peace—both located in Dar es Salaam. In Mbeya, there is the Tamar Project which gives support to rape survivors. These support networks are not sufficient and more Planning and Budget Allocation needs to be pursued in order to address the vast need for Rape Survivor Centers.
1. Legal and Policy environment
2. Advocate for a specific law on Domestic Violence
3. Incorporate GBV into HIV policies and plans
4. Facilitate dialogue among parliamentarians about the health, development, and social impacts of GBV
5. Assist gender focal points in ministries with addressing GBV issues and developing sector-specific action plans on GBV
6. Work with local government leaders to translate the GBV plans of action into concrete components of community by-laws.
7. Reform health centers systematically to address GBV, starting with how-to policies, protocols, and guidelines
8. Incorporate GBV screening and referrals into HIV counseling and testing program
9. Incorporate a GBV response into HIV counseling and testing programs that have adequate capacity and resources
10. Incorporate GBV curriculum into university health, justice, and legal programs and/or continuing education programs for health professionals
11. Form peer support and counseling groups by training community members as facilitators
12. Awareness-Raising and Community Mobilization
Collective Community Action needs public education to raise awareness on the challenges faced by rape and domestic violence survivors which can only be initiated by government with Civil Society Organizations and Faith Based Organizations providing the back up to the initiative.
We cannot close our eyes and pretend the problem would go away. Ignoring GBV makes us all party to the crime!
Leila Sheikh is a Senior Journalist; Producer of documentaries and Social Justice Defender