Women and Justice in Tanzania
At a high level forum entitled, ‘in pursuit of justice for women’ on the 11 February 2014, Deputy Justice Minister and Guest of Honour, Hon. Angella Kairuki, M.P., emphasized the importance of raising awareness of human rights among the general public and thanked ‘UNDP, for its leading role in the translation and dissemination of the plan across the country.’ Such advocacy and promotion of human rights aims to empower those most vulnerable to realize their rights, including the right to access to justice. As part of the ‘women in resistance campaign’, the UN Inter-Agency Gender Group (IAGG) which includes UNDP, organized the high level form hosted by Alliance Francaise.
In order to address the crippling effect that the lack of access to justice has on the advancement of women in Tanzanian society, the forum heard from a number of other speakers, including Justice Eusebia Munuo of TAWJA and Faidha Suleyman, Tanzanian Police Force-NET, as well as a number of representatives from development partners and CSOs. The discussion focused on challenges for women and also the progress made in the establishment of gender and children’s desks at 417 Police across the country that offer a safe place for women and children to report abuse. Other efforts such as human rights training for the judiciary, gender based violence training for the police and awareness raising of gender based violence in primary schools were also highlighted as progress. Gender inequality is at the forefront of lack of women’s access to justice in Tanzania, which stems in part from the lack of human rights education, especially in rural areas, and the prevalence of a patriarchal society.
From the forum discussions, it is clear that many women are still reluctant to report crimes and human rights abuses owing to intimidation at the police level, extortion at the court level, and sextortion of women and children at many levels. A further barrier to reporting cases is the lack of safe houses in order to escape retribution. Speakers also noted that even when victims of crimes and abuse decide to report, there is often a limited availability of legal aid and paralegals services. A process to review the legal aid legislation has been initiated and efforts to empower legal aid providers are in the making.
The forum separated into three working groups and one of the main outcomes of the discussion was a broad action plan, which outlines ways to address the many challenges facing women in pursuing justice and potential avenues for collaboration among development partners, CSOs, government institutions and the UN. This action plan will be a useful reference tool in the pursuit of justice in order to ensure activities are in line with identified priorities and collaboration is achieved among the responsible actors.
The National Human Rights Action Plan for Tanzania was launched by the Vice President of the United Republic of Tanzania on the 10th December 2013.
IAGG is a cross cutting UN group responsible for mainstreaming gender throughout UN programming in Tanzania which supports government in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.