The Sanctioned Emotional, Physical and Sexual Abuse of Children in Tanzania - Part 2 - Papers & Essays



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The Sanctioned Emotional, Physical and Sexual Abuse of Children in Tanzania - Part 2


Recent studies conducted in Tanzania have revealed that sexual, physical and emotional abuses are commonly experienced by large numbers of children growing up in the country. According to UNICEF's survey report on violence against children in Tanzania (UNICEF Tanzania, 2011), among every ten females, three reported to have experienced sexual violence before they were 18 whereas among every twenty boys, three reported a similar experience before they were 18 as well.

Reports have also indicated that perpetrators of such violence are often very close to the children and known to both the children and the general society. However, there is maintenance of high levels of silence surrounding such acts of violence against children.
This paper uses a selection of cases of sexual, emotional and physical abuses against children from Tanzania to create a deeper understanding of child abuse issues. The paper offers definitions of various child abuse concepts; reviews literature, reported cases and a personal experience of emotional, physical and sexual related abuses that children in Tanzania are facing.

Finally, after analysing how the concept and form of child protection and context of child abuses developed, this paper establishes the presence of rampant abuse of children in Tanzanian society and a continuous high level of silence on this matter. Taboo surrounding sexual subjects, bad traditions and customs in raising children, ignorance on child rights and lack of effective policies are identified as major contributing factors that have led to a society that tolerates these forms of abuse to children.

The Sanctioned Emotional, Physical and Sexual Abuse of Chidren in Tanzania

  • Part1
  • Part2 (This paper)

Ⅳ. Form and Context

Child abuse has, in this paper, been mentioned with reference to the act of harming a child emotionally, physically or sexually. According to a definition of child abuse by Australian Institute of Family Studies (2012) which has been adopted by Bromfield (2005) and Christoffel, et al., (1992);

"Child maltreatment refers to any non-accidental behaviour by parents, caregivers, other adults or older adolescents that is outside the norms of conduct and entails a substantial risk of causing physical or emotional harm to a child or young person. Such behaviours may be intentional or unintentional and can include acts of omission (i.e., neglect) and commission (i.e., abuse)" (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2012).

The above definition has further categorized abuse of children into physical, emotional, sexual, neglect and witnessing family violence (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2012). For the purpose of this study, three forms of emotional, physical and sexual abuses in Tanzania will be discussed.

Physical Abuse

Corporal punishment is one of the major ways that physical abuse has commonly been executed on children. Tanzania society widely believes in disciplining a child and considers the use of corporal punishment for this purpose.

"Corporal punishment is lawful in the home in mainland Tanzania and in Zanzibar. Provisions against violence and abuse in the Penal Codes and other laws are not interpreted as prohibiting corporal punishment in childrearing. In mainland Tanzania, the Law of the Child Act (2009) states that parents should protect children from all forms of violence (article 9), includes beatings which cause harm in the definition of child abuse (article 3) and prohibits "torture, or other cruel, inhuman punishment or degrading treatment" (article 13). However, it allows for "justifiable" correction (article 13) and does not exclude all forms of corporal punishment from such correction. In Zanzibar, article 14 of the Children's Act (2011) states that "no child shall be subjected to violence, torture, or other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment or treatment or any cultural or traditional practice which dehumanizes or is injurious to his physical and mental wellbeing" but it also states that "parents may discipline their children in such a manner which shall not amount to injury to the child's physical and mental wellbeing": this is not interpreted as prohibiting all corporal punishment in childrearing" (Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, 2012 p.2).

Similarly, caning in Tanzania schools is still legal and a common form of punishing students for misbehaving, failure to complete assignments or underperformance.

Corporal punishment is lawful in schools in mainland Tanzania under the National Corporal Punishment Regulations (1979) pursuant to article 60 of the National Education Act (1978), which authorises the minister to make regulations "to provide for and control the administration of corporal punishment in schools". The Law of the Child Act does not does not repeal this provision or prohibit corporal punishment in schools. Government guidelines in 2000 reduced the number of strokes from six to four and stated that only the heads of schools are allowed to administer the punishment, with penalties for teachers who flout these regulations. In Zanzibar, the Ministry of Education has adopted a policy against corporal punishment in schools, but it remains lawful under the 1982 Education Act. The Zanzibar Children's Act does not explicitly prohibit corporal punishment in schools. In rejecting the recommendations to prohibit corporal punishment made during the UPR in 2011, the Government asserted that "corporal punishment does not apply in the education system" but that caning is administered in schools and is "a legitimate and acceptable form of punishment [not intended to] be violent, abusive or degrading" (12 March 2012, A/HRC/19/4/Add.1, Working Group Report: Addendum, para. 86(47)) (Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, 2012 p.2).

Corporal punishment in Tanzania not only is generally acceptable in the society, it exists legally. And whereas the law seems to be providing guidance that can protect children from vulnerability to violence through the execution of corporal punishment, simply allowing this form of punishment to exist increases a potential for excessive violence in particular, because at the execution level it is not easy to ensure adherence to policy guidelines. Megan Randall who is a World Teacher volunteer from USA teaching at Morogoro Secondary School describes her experience with corporal punishment in this school:

"Expectations are so high that if students perform poorly on their weekly tests (scoring below 50 usually) then their teachers will cane (hit them on the hands with sticks taken from the woods) as punishment.

In all my time at Moro Sec and in Tanzania in general, caning has been the most difficult cultural custom for me to stomach. In America if a teacher hits a student he/she could go to jail! It could be considered as child abuse and serious measures would be taken to ensure the student's future safety so that such an event would not happen again. For sure, if you think back to what American classrooms were like fifty years ago it was normalized back then for teachers to hit students to whip them into shape. They used rulers rather than sticks, but they still beat students harshly for misbehaving. But that was fifty years ago and we've come a long way since then. It's no longer okay to hit a student for misbehaving. Instead we mandate bad students to serve detention to complete their homework individually in silence under the watchful and attentive eye of a teacher. What's more, the punishment happens after school hours so that the students' studies are not interrupted as a consequence of their misconduct.

In Tanzania, things are very different. At any given moment while I'm teaching a class it is highly probable that a colleague of mine will come to my class, interrupt my lesson and beckon several students to leave class to be punished. They can be punished in several ways. They could be caned by a teacher; forced to clean the school grounds by sweeping up petals and leaves that fall from trees outside or washing the concrete floors of the school with old rags and buckets of water; or told to slash (use machete-like clubs to manually cut grass - there's no such thing as lawn mowers here...) the overgrown grass on campus. Since the school does not have employees whose jobs are to attend to these cleaning and maintenance tasks, the school - in a way - is dependent on students misbehaving in order to keep up its aesthetic appeal. I find this outrageously frustrating! How can a school be dependent on students misbehaving in order to maintain a good appearance? Then again, maybe it's not so much a dependent relationship as it is a causal reality - there will always be some students that will misbehave, so perhaps the school is putting two and two together and figuring that it might as well use students for free labor that will consistently get done" (Randall, 2011).

My personal experience of being raised and schooled in Tanzania is also evidence of how hard it is to control adherence to guidelines on the execution of corporal punishment. I was lucky that my parents did not believe in corporal punishment at home and we had a discussion when there was an occasion of misbehaviour. The consequences of corporal punishment that I had to encounter during my first four years of secondary education have had a lifetime impact both on my friends and me as indicated in the brief description below.

When I went to a school, however, I became a victim of excessive violence in the name of corporal punishment. The first major incident happened to me when I was 15 years old studying at Njombe Secondary School, a boys boarding school then. In this school at this time, caning was not only performed by teachers but also by student captains who were mandated by teachers to cane "misbehaving" students as well. One night my friends and I were summoned by the student captains to their room. When upon arrival I noticed a bunch of thick long sticks on the floor, I knew immediately what was prepared for us as the act of being summoned by student captains in this school had its exclusive repute. The moment we entered, the door was locked and the interrogation started. We had missed what was called the self-reliance project earlier that afternoon. The self-reliance project was intensive farm work that supposedly prepares students to become self-reliant and self-employed in the agriculture sector after finishing school. Before presenting our cases on why we were absent from the self-reliance project that afternoon, a violent beating started. I was certain that I could not handle the occasion and had already figured my way out of it - to jump out of the window of that second floor room.

That night was the end of my school life in Njombe Secondary School and the beginning of my life as a street child in Mbeya city where I ran after escaping from the punishment. I was fortunate that my parents made every effort they could to track me and return me home a couple of months later. I have no news of Geoffrey, a friend I ran away with who disappeared in the Mbeya streets minutes before I was rescued and brought home.

One year later I was at Irambo Secondary School, again a boarding school. The food provided in this school was unpleasant and it was common for students to escape from school to go to a nearby village to do what we called "a change of diet". On this day my friend Moses and I felt we had had enough of food at school and therefore we escaped for a change of diet. Our absence was noted by the headmaster, who eagerly awaited our return. The moment we arrived back at school in the late afternoon we were invited into headmaster's office and the school assembly was called. The headmaster had found an opportunity to warn the entire student body against "escaping for a change of diet behaviour".

All teachers and students were summoned into the assembly. When everybody was ready, standing on a cold afternoon on a dusty assembly ground, Moses and I were escorted to the assembly, our hands tied at the back with thick sisal rope. After a short warning speech from the headmaster to the students, teachers were invited to "teach us a lesson". They picked up sticks one after the other, executing the punishment without caring what part of the body received the beating. Our crying voices went fading into the air and I have no idea how long this exercise went on. It must have been an hour or so, all I still remember is that it was going on forever.

On that night our legs were tied as well and we were left to sleep in a smoky kitchen behind the school cafeteria. When we finally got released next morning I had a hard time contemplating what to do next. I could see how disappointed my parents would be if I quit school again, I had no option but to go on, after all I was not far from finishing. As for my friend Moses the decision was clear, he would not stay here again and that was the end of Moses' education. I have continued to be in contact with him for some time and he is still hurting for not being able to complete his secondary education because the art work he is currently doing, he believes, would be far much better if he was more educated.

In homes that administer corporal punishment, there is no control as to how much they remain within parameters that protect a child from excessive violence. In a society that has maintained an extended family support system, corporal punishment at home can get uglier. Whereas cases of parents administering severe punishment on their own children are common, a higher level of severity of these punishments can be noted in cases where children have been left to live in extended families.

WAVUTI (2012B) reports a case of a 9 year old girl Nase Yonah who had been repeatedly receiving beatings from her aunt Anna Minja who is also a teacher at Narumu Primary School. News about Nase's abuse became public through the media after she was admitted to Kilimanjaro Regional Hospital. Ms. Minja is accused of repeatedly beating her niece with a thick wire. Nase was rescued when women who sell fruits and vegetables observed that on a number of occasions Nase came to shop at the market, went back home and returned after a short while crying. After being interrogated by the women Nase explained that her aunt was always beating her. On this particular occasion Nase was accused of not bringing home what she was sent to buy. She was given Tsh. 2,000 (about US$1.5) to buy plantains, tomatoes and a quarter of a kilo of beef, but she only bought plantains and tomatoes either believing that that was all she was sent to buy or because she did not have enough money for everything. To rescue Nase from further beating, the women sellers gave her some more money to buy the meat to take back to her aunt. Nase however, came running back again to the women and crying. At this point the women furthered their interrogation and found out many scars old and new on Nase's body and decided to take her to the police station and later to the hospital.

Michuzi (2012), reports on a 3 year old girl, Aneth, who was burnt with hot water and forced to eat her own excrement by her aunt in Mbeya city. Neighbours forced their way in the house where little Aneth was making horrific crying sounds and found her left hand badly burnt. The aunt, Ms. Bahati Rukangara is said to be the sister of Aneth's mother, who lives in the northern city of Mwanza and had allowed her little daughter to be taken to live with her sister as part of an extended family care arrangement. Following this discovery, baby Aneth was taken to hospital by neighbours while her aunt was taken to police and Aneth's mother informed of the incident.

Both Nase's and Aneth's incidents describe the popular form and context of child abuse in Tanzania that call for increased attention. As mentioned above, whereas there is rampant physical abuse of children by parents to their own children, severe abuse can be identified more in the context of extended family care. This traditional way of supporting each other in a community has many benefits but has been also a place where many children's rights have been violated. It is common for relatives to ask to go and live with children of their siblings indicating goodwill especially in cases where there is loss of a parent or economic inability to support children.

Promises to support and care for such children, however, have been violated and children have been turned into ill-treated housemaids, Nase being a typical example, or in other extreme cases they, have been turned into sex workers. According to Malya (2013), a girl known as Sara Tarimo, now 27 years old served as a sex worker in an informal brothel in Dar es Salaam for ten years. Sara was taken from her parents' home in Babati town of northern Tanzania by a female relative Ms. Abia Lucas who lived in Dar es Salaam after the death of her own mother. When Sara's mother passed away, Sara who never knew her father was in primary school and Ms. Abia's offer to take her was considered to be a big relief to the family. She was promised that in Dar es Salaam she would have the opportunity to continue schooling.

When she arrived in the city, Sara was given new clothes which she describes as short skirts and pants and short tops which exposed most of her body parts. She was offered her own room and that same night an older man entered into her room and raped her. Sara's attempts to shout and call for help did not bear fruit and that was the beginning of her long ten years of sexual work in a house where she was not allowed to go out unescorted. Sara, who is now infected with HIV describes her first intercourse as a rape that occurred when she was thirteen.

In other cases, severe physical abuse of children has occurred when there is separation or divorce and children have had to go and live with a stepparent. WAVUTI (2011) reports a case of 8-year old Dickson Mujarifu a first-grade pupil at Dukamba primary school who was saved by other children after calling for help when they passed near his house. The children who were Dickson's schoolmates were passing on their way to school when they heard Dickson's cry for help. They went to the back of Dickson's house and saw that his stepmother and his father Dafroza Masilu (25) and Hezron Mujarifu (35), had hung him by his feet. They ran to report to their teachers who came to Dickson's rescue and took him to hospital. Doctors at the hospital reported that Dickson's body had many scars, which indicated that he had been repeatedly physically abused.

Sexial Abuse

In Tanzania sex and sexuality are taboo topics. "Traditionally, in many societies, the issue of sexuality was considered a secret and the domain of adults. Sexual knowledge and education were part and parcel of initiation into adulthood for both males and females" (Setel, n.d). This taboo notion of sex and sexuality is important in developing an understanding of the silence that surrounds the sexual abuse of children - "secret and the domain of adults".

There is also a link between sex and impurity. Fishermen in the coastal areas of Tanzania reportedly believed that sexual intercourse makes one impure and this impurity prevents successful fishing especially because it disturbs evil spirits who live in the waters.

"For coastal fishermen, whether married or not, it is taboo not to have a bath after having sex before fishing. This is due to a belief that having intercourse dirties the body. The ocean is home of evil spirits and, according to beliefs, they dislike meeting with an impure person. This taboo is strictly adhered to in order to avoid misfortune during fishing activities" (Coral Reef, 2009 P.2).

Women's menstruation is also considered to be a sensitive matter of sexuality in Tanzanian society. Menstruation is a matter that cannot be mentioned in public or openly discussed and has highly been associated with impurity. Again taking the example of Tanzanian coastal fishermen, the majority of whom are Muslim, one can notice this notion of impurity associated with sexuality.

"According to Islamic religion, a menstruating woman is considered impure. She is not allowed to fast, pray or read the Koran. Additionally, to avoid misfortune it is taboo for a menstruating woman to go fishing. This taboo involuntarily protects fishing habitats on the near shore reefs" (Coral Reef, 2009 P.2).

The secretiveness and taboo notion of sex and sexuality can begin to explain the silence that is maintained when a child is sexually abused. Since sex must be secret, outside knowledge about this activity will shame a person who has been involved in the activity. The patriarchal nature of society however, could increase this shame even more for females. Coupled with the shame that comes from the sense of impurity linked to menstrual periods, females of this society are especially more vulnerable to shame associated with sexual activity. Victims of this shame however are not limited to the single victim, but may also include the family.

Matters of sexual abuse get increasingly complicated when considering the perpetrators of the action. These people are members of the family as in the case of a woman with her three children or the neighbours as in a case of the ten-year old girl presented in section three of this paper. Sometimes these people are highly respected or influential people. WAVUTI (2012C) reports an incident of a 9-year old boy who was raped by a cleaner of a mosque in Dodoma. According to this report, the boy was raped in a mosque toilet after being promised Tsh. 500 (equivalent of quarter of a dollar). The sensitivity of the premise that the abuse has occurred and the popularity of the perpetrator are enough to make the abuse of a child a secret never to be disclosed to anyone.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse often times does not get appropriately acknowledged or even recognized. From an emotional state of an adult it is easy for emotional abuse of a child to sprout. Skuse (1989) describes emotional abuse as an action or actions that "verbally harass" a child:

"Emotional abuse refers to the habitual verbal harassment of a child by disparagement, criticism, threat and ridicule, and the inversion of love; by verbal and non-verbal means rejection and withdrawal are substituted. Neglect comprises both a lack of physical caretaking and supervision and a failure to engage the developmental needs of the child in terms of cognitive stimulation" (p.1692).

Child verbal harassment is a common feature that may not be easily recognizable in Tanzania. Report from a survey by UNICEF indicates high prevalence of this form of abuse.

"Approximately one-quarter of females and nearly 3 out of every 10 males aged 13 to 24 years reported experiences of emotional violence by an adult prior to turning 18. Between 4% and 5% of females and males aged 13 to 24 years reported that they were threatened with abandonment by an adult prior to turning 18 years of age" (UNICEF Tanzania, 2011 p.2).

Apparently these different forms of abuse tend to overlap with each other and emotional abuse can easily be found in abuse of other forms.

"Females and males who experienced sexual violence also tended to report exposure to physical and emotional violence. More than 8 in 10 females and males aged 13 to 24 years who experienced sexual violence prior to age 18, also experienced physical violence prior to age 18. More than 4 in 10 females and 1 in 2 males who experienced childhood sexual violence also experienced emotional violence prior to age 18" (UNICEF Tanzania, 2011 p.2).

As already mentioned above, this form of abuse is highly sanctioned in Tanzanian society and receives less attention in comparison to other forms and yet it has negative lifelong impact on children. Skuse describes various key features of the abuse among different age groups. The key features of emotional abuse among infants include;

"physical failure to thrive, recurrent and persistent minor infections, frequent attendance at casualty departments or admission to hospital, unexplained bruising severe, nappy rash development, general delay behaviour attachment disorders: anxious, avoidant, lack of social responsiveness" (Skuse, 1989 p.1692).

In Tanzania infants are not looked after by their mothers alone, in most circumstances these babies are looked after by other members of the extended family, housemaids or older siblings. For an infant, communicating abuse is obviously a challenge, hence identifying key features of emotional abuse among infants could be of use. However, features outlined by Skuse above are hard to apply in the context of Tanzania where infections, bruises, nappy rash and the like are a common feature of most infants due to other factors linked to poverty and health conditions.

Similarly, children of pre-school age can hardly express their experience of abuse in daily life in Tanzanian society. Children of this age become vulnerable to abuse not only from the list of adults and older siblings but perhaps even from their own peers. Again to identify and follow up on such abuse incidents for a child in Tanzania is difficult. Skuke again has a list of key features that in other societies may easily be used to identify a child of this age who is experiencing abuse. They include:

"Physical short stature microcephaly, unkempt and dirty, development of language delayed, attention span limited, socio-emotional immaturity behaviour, overactive, aggressive and impulsive, indiscriminate friendliness, seeks physical contact from strangers" (Skuse, 1989 p.1693).

For schoolchildren, Skuse presents the following list of key features;

"Physical short stature, poor hygiene, unkempt appearance development, learning difficulties, lack of self-esteem, poor coping skills, socio-emotional immaturity behaviour disordered or few relationships, self-stimulating or self-injurious behaviour, or both, unusual patterns of defecation or urination, or both" (Skuse, 1989 p.1693).

As mentioned above, this list needs to be contextualized if is to be used to identify children who have experienced abuse in Tanzanian society as these features could be taken or associated with other factors. The challenge is therefore to develop appropriate methods that can assist parents, teachers and community members in general in identifying children who are experiencing emotional abuse and other forms of abuse and facilitate the breaking of the silence behind abuse of children in Tanzania.

Ⅴ. Conclusion: Tanzania Child Development Policy and Protection of Children

The Tanzanian government has given special attention to children. The government recognizes the importance of raising children in a safe environment and responding to their basic needs. This is evidenced by, among others, the formation of a cabinet portfolio that deals with children - The Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children. Through this Ministry the government has come up with a policy for the protection of children.

The question that needs to be asked is whether this policy has the ability to provide effective guidelines and effective implementation strategies that can in turn offer effective protection of children. Tanzania Child Development Policy was put in place in 1996. The UNICEF Tanzania survey report on child abuse in Tanzania that is discussed in previous chapters does not reflect the fact that this policy has had a desired impact in protecting children.

There are a couple of things about the policy itself that can be discussed. Chapter 5, section 86 states:

"Children need to be protected at all stages of their growth, before and after birth. Therefore, children need to be protected against things such as abortion, murder, suicide, abandonment, exploitation, tasks incompatible with their age, deprivation, oppression and neglect. Children also need protection against all forms of abuse, bad practices and cruelty for example female genital mutilation, forced early marriage and also drug abuse. Because of the decline in morality and neglect of our traditions and customs, there has been large increase in cases of rape and defilement of children in our society" (URT, 1996 P.32).

Child protection of children is mentioned in the last chapter of this document. Earlier chapters mention child survival, child rights and child development. In the objectives section of this policy, child abuse is mentioned as the tenth and last objective. It may seem that this order simply follows a logical flow, but more than that it also reflects the level of concern and attention given to the issue of child protection.

By the order of issues that needs to be considered in child protection, the policy indicates that issues of "abortion, murder, suicide, abandonment, exploitation, tasks incompatible with their age, deprivation, oppression and neglect" are a real concern and the policy gives them a priority focus. Abuse of children is mentioned much later and again this may reflect the level of concern given in this document to child protection from abuse.

When child abuse is finally mentioned it indicates some disconnect between the real issues that face the children on a daily basis and the views of policymakers. The mention of "cruelty" is overly general and does not bring up the realities that are on the ground. Female Genital Mutilation and early marriages are subjects that are important and have succeeded in receiving much attention, which is good thing, but it is important to also give heightened attention to other forms of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

The policy presents sexual abuse with an excuse and some form of justification. The statement starts with "Because of the decline in morality and neglect of our traditions and customs..." This sentence may be suggesting some denial in acknowledging and owning up to the problem of sexual child abuse. This could again be linked to the earlier discussion on the silence behind the topic of sex.

Also, earlier on this policy states in chapter 4 section 81 under Child Development theme "individuals, institutions and non-governmental organizations should ensure that all activities involving children do not violate good customs and traditions of our nation..." (URT, 1996 P.29). The emphasis put on keeping "traditions and customs" in this document may be interpreted as suggesting that child abuse problems in Tanzania are alien; they are a consequence of losing Tanzanian customs and traditions and adopting foreign traditions.

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Jacob_Kahemele.jpg Jacob William Kahemele

Jacob is from Tanzania; currently the Chief Executive Officer of Holistic Enterprise for Advancing Rural Tanzania (HEART), a small charity organization he and Theodora, his wife founded in 2007. He originally went to Australia in 2007 to join his wife who was admitted in a law doctoral study program at Bond University. While in Australia Jacob engaged in activities promoting rural development in his native country through HEART. Jacob's background is in in Theology and Community Development. Back in Tanzania he spent ten years working in areas of community development and HIV/AIDS while serving with the Anglican Church of Tanzania, Family Health International and Christian Council of Tanzania. Jacob is a proud recipient of Rotary Peace Fellowship studying at International Christian University in Tokyo, Japan in the Public Policy and Social Research Program (majoring in Peace studies). His research areas of interest include religious-based conflicts and child protection from emotional, physical and sexual abuse. He is particularly interested in the issue of silence surrounding child abuse. Jacob is also pursuing to understand and propose a solution to Muslim and Christian conflicts that started to emerge in his own country Tanzania.