Empowering Justice: Tamwa Znz's Special Report On Gbv Special Courts - Insights And Recommendations


By our correspondent, Unguja.

Government and civil society stakeholders are diligently engaged in the movement and the fight against gender-based violations. To some extent, we have witnessed successes, with several instances of individuals facing consequences for their acts of humiliation, and perpetrators being brought to justice. However, society continues to grapple with a significant challenge, particularly when these acts of humiliation involve family members – the issue of evidence.

On October 28, 2023, the Tanzania Media Women’s Association - Zanzibar (TAMWA ZNZ) observed the International Day of the Girl Child by presenting a special report on the performance and impact of the special court for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Zanzibar. The commemoration event took place at Mansoor HallFuoniNyumbaMoja and saw the participation of diverse stakeholders, including educators, jurists, religious leaders, anti-GBV advocates, and journalists.

During the meeting's opening, Asha Abdi, the Chairperson of the TAMWA ZNZ board, mentioned that the United Nations officially established the International Day of the Girl Child on December 19, 2011. This day is annually celebrated on October 11, and the global community designates the entire month of October to acknowledge and commemorate the challenges that girls face worldwide.

She emphasized that it is the society's responsibility to recognize the necessity of nurturing self-esteem in girls and aiding them in achieving their goals while attaining economic independence.

During the report presentation, HauraShamte, a member of TAMWA, shared insights. She mentioned, "Many of the respondents indicated that they experienced positive cooperation from law enforcement, the police, the DPP's office, and the court. Approximately 65% of the respondents reported good cooperation, while 35% expressed a lack of cooperation," Haura explained.

Haura, who also brings extensive journalism experience to the table, went on to mention that the Chief Prosecutor's Office (DPP) in Unguja responded to the questionnaire. They reported that they typically receive an average of 70 to 100 cases related to acts of humiliation each month from all district offices in both Unguja and Pemba.

The special report, focusing on the effectiveness of the Special Courts for Gender-Based Violence (GBV) cases, reveals that in June 2021, Zanzibar established Special Courts dedicated to handling such cases. To date, there are five of these specialized courts, each presided over by eight judges. Among these courts, three are located in Unguja, and two are situated in Pemba.

Zaina SalumAbdallah, the Project Officer for GBV Projects at TAMWA ZNZ, emphasized that girls encounter numerous challenges. Consequently, many organizations are persistently working to implement various projects aimed at safeguarding and empowering girls and women to realize their aspirations. These initiatives also focus on enhancing their awareness of their rights and enabling them to pursue their dreams.

"To reach this objective, we provide education on gender-based violence issues through the media and teach them how to report and write news related to acts of humiliation for journalists. This equips them with theability to effectively convey these messages to the community through the media," Zaina explained.

Maryam Ame Chum, a Project Officer for Strengthening Women in Leadership at TAMWA Zanzibar, highlighted that the path to girls becoming leaders is not merely a spontaneous occurrence. It begins with instilling confidence in their abilities within their homes and fostering an understanding of their fundamental rights.

She added, "Granting the girl child access to democratic rights and empowering her from a young age offers the opportunity for self-awareness and equips her with the strength needed to later engage in and pursue leadership roles."

Sarah Omar Hafidh, the Judge of the Vuga Court who deals with GBV issues, emphasized, "The community must be aware that the sentencing process is carried out in accordance with the country's laws. If a sentence is issued, it is based on legal principles."

This comprehensive report was conducted over the course of one month, from June 16 to July 16, 2023. It reached eight districts and 57 shehia in both Unguja and Pemba. A total of 71 victims' parents were interviewed, along with four officers from the Special Courts and two Prosecutor's Offices of Unguja and Pemba. The data collection involved the completion of 77 questionnaires.

Contributing to the report, stakeholder working against acts of Gender-Based Violence (GBV), FatmaHamis Ali, a legal assistant and activist, emphasized that the report highlights an ongoing issue within the community – a lack of cooperation.

She explained, "As activists, we make efforts to encourage family members to provide evidence in court. However, after a judgment, such as the father's imprisonment, these family members often find themselves isolated and lacking support from their families."

Mwandawa Suleiman Juma, a teacher at Chukwani Primary School, appealed to women not to leave their children behind when they decide to leave their marriages. She concluded, "My message to women is to take their children with them when leaving a marriage to ensure their safety."

In 2022, a total of 1,360 incidents of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) were reported. Among these cases, 534 are currently under police investigation, 2 are in the DPP (Director of Public Prosecutions) Office, 421 are in the court system, 181 incidents resulted in convictions, 139 cases led to releases, 19 cases had no suspect found, and in 64 cases, no action has been taken.

The report also includes recommendations for the community, suggesting that they maintain close communication with children under the age of 18 to enable early detection of any adverse incidents. Additionally, the report advises Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) to continue offering training to law enforcement officers and the general public. Furthermore, it recommends that the government take steps to establish and facilitate the use of electronic evidence, particularly in cases involving children, and address issues related to corruption in cases of humiliation.

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