Tanzania: Equality Now calls upon the government of Tanzania to halt the on-going genital mutilation of girls and women in the Tarime district

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Date: 
3 Dec 2010

Equality Now is deeply concerned about reports that over 5,000 girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) during the forthcoming December holiday season in a number of villages of the Tarime District in the Mara Region.

The government of Tanzania prohibits the practice of FGM under its Sexual Offences Special Provision Act 1998. The law provides that anyone having custody, charge or care of a girl under eighteen years of age who causes her to undergo FGM commits the offence of cruelty to children. The penalty for this offence is a term of imprisonment from five to fifteen years, a fine of up to 300,000 shillings (approximately $4,000), or both. The law also provides for the payment of compensation by the perpetrator to the person against whom the offence was committed. TAKE ACTION!

A number of local organisations, including a coalition of a dozen groups led by one of Equality Now’s partners, the Legal and Human Rights Centre, have engaged in intensive campaigning to end FGM by raising awareness of FGM in some villages in Tarime district, particularly through the support of teachers and the empowerment of schoolgirls. Local organisations have also been collaborating with law enforcement officers to ensure that the law is implemented.

Although a handful of cases have reached the courts in recent years, the police are still generally reluctant to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators. While units to address gender-based violence have been created in a number of police stations and one of their mandates is to ensure that the law against FGM is fully enforced, the police on the whole fail to protect women and girls who are then subjected to FGM with impunity.

There are reports suggesting that over 250 girls may have already been subjected to FGM in Tarime over the past several days and more girls will undergo the practice as it is planned that genital mutilation will be taking place every day from now until mid January 2011. Yet the police in Tarime district have so far failed to arrest any perpetrators who have been subjecting girls to FGM.

Although the national anti-FGM law does not address prevention of FGM, rather focusing on punishment after FGM has been carried out, the police have a responsibility to prevent the practice from taking place and to prevent people from breaking the law. According to Section 5 of the Police Force Ordinance Cap.322, the Tanzanian police force “shall be employed to detect and prevent crime and apprehend the perpetrators”.

The government of Tanzania also has an obligation under regional and international human rights instruments to ensure that preventive mechanisms are put in place to protect women and girls from undergoing FGM. In 2007 the government of Tanzania ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which under Article 5(d) requires States Parties to protect women and girls at risk from being subjected to FGM. Tanzania has also ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which in Section 21 requires States Parties to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices and in particular those “prejudicial to the health or life of the child.” Tanzania is also a party to other international instruments that prohibit the practice of harmful traditional practices including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which require States Parties to take measures to ensure the practice of FGM is prohibited and women and girls are protected from undergoing FGM.

Despite these commitments, the government of Tanzania has failed to enforce preventative mechanisms which will enable girls and women at risk to be rescued before they are mutilated. Last year when the national anti-FGM coalition in Tanzania rescued two girls from undergoing FGM, the police failed to act despite being alerted to the risk these girls were facing. The girls are currently staying in a shelter, as they cannot risk returning to their community for fear of FGM. Currently, the police in the Tarime district have failed to intervene in this on-going mutilation despite being aware of the preparations undertaken by the community. The Tarime-based Termination of Female Genital Mutilation society (TFGM) is worried that girls below the age of 8 years will be forced to undergo the practice by their parents now and in the following weeks and is widely appealing for action and support to save girls from imminent risk of FGM.

Tarime has a very high rate of FGM compared to other districts in the region. The practice is performed on cohorts of girls in ceremonies that take place at least every two years in almost the entire district. Many girls in this community drop out of school and are married off after undergoing FGM. The government has not undertaken a program to educate the community and protect girls from undergoing FGM, but has left the bulk of the work on this to local organisations.

Equality Now calls upon the government of Tanzania to honor its international, regional and national legal provisions by enforcing the law against FGM effectively to ensure the perpetrators are prosecuted and the girls in the Tarime district are protected from the practice as a matter of urgency. The police must also work closely with local organisations that work within the communities to end FGM. In light of the African Union launch of the African Women’s Decade in October 2010, it is particularly incumbent on member states, including Tanzania, to make good on their pledges and commitments to promote the human rights of women and girls and protect them from FGM.

What You Can Do: 

Please join Equality Now and call on the Tanzanian government to immediately ensure that girls from Tarime are protected from FGM and the perpetrators who have carried out the practice there are arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Also urge the government of the United Republic of Tanzanian to ensure that the police take decisive action to enforce the law for the benefit of all girls and women in Tanzania at risk of FGM and that they take other preventative and protective measures as appropriate in accordance with Tanzania’s national and international obligations. TAKE ACTION!

Send letters to:

His Excellency Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete
President of the United Republic of Tanzania
Office of the President
P.O Box 9120
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Tel Office: +255 22 211 6679 or +255 211 0972 or +255 22 211 6538
Personal Mobile: +255 754 777 777
Fax: +255 22 212 8585 or +255 22 211 3425
Email: jkikwete@yahoo.com

Hon. Mizengo Kayanza Peter Pinda
Prime Minister of the United Republic of Tanzania
Office of the Prime Minister
P.O. Box 980, Dodoma.
P.O. Box 3021
Dar- es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Tel: +255 22 211 6798, +255 22 232 4904

Hon. Celina Ompeshi Kombani,
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs
PO Box 9050
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Tel: +255 22 211 3234 or +255 22 212 3803
Fax: +255 22 211 3236
Email: dafrosa_mniko@yahoo.com; katibumkuu@sheria.go.tz

Commissioner Said Ally Mwema
Inspector General of Police
PO Box 9141
Dar-Es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Tel. Office: +255 22 211 3461
Personal mobile: +255 754 785 557
Fax: +255 22 213 6556
Email: smwema@yahoo.com, or s_mwema@yahoo.com, or s.mwema@yahoo.com

Hon. Sophia Mathayo Simba
Minister of Community Development, Gender and Children's Affairs
PO Box 3448
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Tel: +255 22 213 2057 +255 22 211 5074; +255 22 211 5635
Fax: +255 22 213 3647
Email: info_wic@uccmail.co.tz

Hon. Shamsi Vuai Nahodha
Minister of Home Affairs
P.O. Box 2218
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA
Tel: +255 22 211 7108, +255 22 213 36322, +255 22 211 2034; +255 22 211 7353
Fax: +255 22 212 2617, +255 22 213 9675
Email: comments@moha.go.tz; ps@moha.go.tz

Mr. Z. Munisi
Assistant Superintendent of Police
Police headquarters- Gender Department
Fax: + 255 22 213 1174
Dar-es-Salaam, TANZANIA

Letters: 

[Date]

Dear [President] [Prime Minister] [Minister] [Inspector General] [Assistant Superintendent of Police]:

I am writing to express my deep concern about reports that over 5,000 girls are at risk of undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) during the forthcoming December holiday season in a number of villages of the Tarime District in the Mara Region. Tarime has a very high rate of FGM which is performed on cohorts of girls in ceremonies that take place at least every two years in almost the entire district.  There are reports suggesting that over 250 girls may have already been subjected to FGM in Tarime over the past several days and more girls will undergo the practice as it is planned that genital mutilation will be taking place every day from now until mid January 2011. 

Despite the fact that FGM is prohibited under the Sexual Offences Special Provision Act 1998, the government seems to have done nothing to prevent these girls from undergoing FGM including particularly in such publically known ceremonies.  The police in Tarime district have so far failed to arrest any perpetrators who have been subjecting girls to FGM, inspite of their obligation under Section 5 of the Police Force Ordinance Cap.322, to “detect and prevent crime and apprehend the perpetrators”.

In failing to take action to prevent girls from undergoing FGM, the Tanzanian government is failing its obligations under regional and international human rights instruments.  Article 5(d) of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, requires the government to protect women and girls at risk from being subjected to FGM.  Section 21 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child requires the government to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices and in particular those “prejudicial to the health or life of the child.”  Tanzania is also a party to other international instruments that prohibit the practice of harmful traditional practices including the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).

Please take immediate and urgent action to ensure that girls from Tarime are protected from FGM and the perpetrators who have carried out the practice are arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.  Also ensure that the police take decisive action to enforce the law for the benefit of all girls and women in Tanzania at risk of FGM and that they take other preventative and protective measures as appropriate in accordance with Tanzania’s national and international obligations.

I thank you for your attention.

Yours sincerely