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Rising child abuse cases in Tanzania force review of law

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By APOLINARI TAIRO

Following a rise in incidents of child abuse, Tanzania is taking steps to tighten laws protecting children.

Officials say they will tighten penalties in the Child Act of 2009 to enforce legal provisions that would protect Tanzanian children from violence in different forms, mostly at family levels.

Dr Dorothy Gwajima, the Minister for Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups, says a special task force has been formed to work closely with the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in reviewing the act for proper amendment.

“We have noted some gaps in section 29 of the Child Act, and already the government is in the move to work on it accordingly,” she said in a press statement this week. The task force will work with other stakeholders to ensure that children are protected from the effects of digital transformations.

The 2009 Child Act provides reform and consolidation of laws relating to children, stipulates the rights of the child, and promotes, protects and maintains the welfare of a child with a view to giving effect to international and regional conventions on the rights of the child in Tanzania.

The Act also provides for affiliation, foster care, adoption and custody of the child, to further regulate employment and apprenticeship, to make provisions with respect to a child in conflict with the law, and to provide for related matters.

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Minister Gwajima said that available data shows that 40 percent of cases of violence against children occur in schools and 60 percent from outside the learning environment, mostly in families and residential areas. She called for combined efforts by all members of the public in stopping the abuse of children.

“The ministry plans to spend Tsh177 million ($75.9 million) on this task that will be carried out in the current fiscal year 2022 / 2023,” she added, noting that her docket is working closely with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology to ensure children are well protected from humiliation acts while at school.

Data from the Tanzania Police Force indicates that 27,369 children were exposed to various kinds of violence between 2020 and 2022, making an average of 1,140 child abuse actions per month.

Targeting to combat violence against children, the Ministry of Community Development coordinated the establishment of 30 children’s centers—20 are in the new capital city of Dodoma and 10 are located in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has also teamed up with the media, children rights activists and the government of Tanzania to push for further steps aimed at protecting children from violence.

The latest data from the Ministry of Community Development shows that Tanzania has more than 800,000 street children in various cities.

Evidence on Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (OCSEA) report released in June this year indicated that 67 per cent of children in Tanzania aged between 12 and 17 years old are internet users.

The report says that four per cent of the internet-using children were victims of grave instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse. Those children were either blackmailed to engage in sexual activities, their sexual images shared without permission, or they were coerced to engage in sexual activities through promises of money or gifts.

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