Dar es Salaam. Two new World Bank studies report that the high rates of gender-based violence in Tanzania remain a serious concern despite many promising opportunities to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality in the East African nation.
The studies are thus calling on Tanzania’s authorities to continue to strengthen the policy and legal environment to protect the nation’s women and girls in the country.
The two reports, the Tanzania Gender Assessment 2022 and the Tanzania Gender-Based Violence Assessment 2022, bring together the latest evidence on gender gaps in human endowments, economic opportunities, ownership and control of assets, and women’s voice and agency.
Speaking during the launching of the studies here on Tuesday, World Bank country director Mara Warwick said it is encouraging to see the commitment of policymakers to end violence against women and children in Tanzania.
“However, as our studies show, existing efforts such as the National Plans of Action need to be supported by sustainable funding for their implementation,” Ms Warwick said. “Also, laws that continue to undermine the rights of women and girls to be free from violence and discrimination need to be urgently reformed, such as the Law of Marriage Act whose repeal is still pending.”
More than 20 per cent of all women aged 15-49 years have experienced physical violence in the last year (40 per cent in their lifetime), and about 75 per cent of children experience physical violence by a relative before the age of 18, the studies note.
Moreover, 58 per cent of women and 40 per cent of men believe a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances.
Social norms, low levels of economic independence and education for women and women having lower levels of agency and decision-making power due to their lower participation in employment are key drivers attributable to the high rates of GBV, including intimate partner violence.
Yaa Pokua Afriyie Oppong, World Bank Sector Leader and report co-author, said this during the launching of the studies: “To combat GBV, it is important to build legal literacy among the population through [the] translation of laws and policies, as well as support to widespread community outreach and sensitization.”
The authors, among other recommendations, are making an urgent call for action to change the legislative framework to address child marriage as a key driver of GBV.
The Law of Marriage Act set the minimum age of marriage at 15 for girls and 18 for boys.
In 2016 the High Court of Tanzania ruled that the minimum age for girls was unconstitutional, and this ruling was upheld subsequently by the Court of Appeal in 2019.
As part of this ruling, the government was instructed that within one year it should change the minimum age of marriage for girls to be 18, however, this reform is still pending.