Poverty: Challenge to Meet Human Rights

The Citizen: Saturday, 22 October 2011

How is Tanzania’s record on human rights?
I think we must speak of very good records in terms of social cohesion, increasing attention to human rights in the new Mkukuta and Mkuza, as well as commitments towards the International Bill of Human Rights by ratifications of the two Covenants and reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Constitution.

Tanzania is also known for having achieved great improvements in access to education, for hosting and finding durable solutions for large numbers of refugees and therefore contributing to peace and stability in the Great Lakes region. So, there are several positive and commendable efforts from Tanzania’s side in terms of human rights.  There are also some challenges.

Widespread poverty indicates difficulties in realising the right to an adequate standard of living.  We also know that the governments of both Mainland and Zanzibar are taking steps to address gender inequalities and domestic violence.  However, there is still a long way ahead towards full equality and the eradication of violence against both women and children.

Do you have any specific areas on human rights where you think Tanzania isn’t faring well?
Well, it is difficult to point out specific areas.  All human rights issues are linked to each other.  But, the recent and credible reports from civil society about a rise in killings, or arbitrary deprivations of life, particularly in the North West regions cannot be ignored.  One becomes particularly concerned about the stories of killings of women, where offenders are bringing up the card of witchcraft, as a pretext to commit serious offences and grab property or land from widows, or women living under other exposed conditions.

These reports also remind us about the situation we had with the killings of persons with albinism a few years back in the same region.  The number of deadly attacks on this group has recently dropped significantly — we are not aware of any murders in Tanzania so far this year– but there are still incidents of serious abuse and a need to address stigma among child victims, as well as their families.  Horrendously, it also seems there are still a market for buying body parts in Tanzania and some reliable indications of trafficking of the remains of victims from other countries over the borders.

So what steps did you take when there was an emergence of albino killings?
We worked closely with the government to look at immediate actions to respond and it stepped up quickly to its obligation to investigate and prosecute persons alleged to have committed these offenses in Tanzania. There was also a number of social protection measures put in place, such as safe shelters for children with albinism.

Albinism is nothing but a form of skin disorder, and as such, it raises needs for special medical attention. Such affirmative steps should also be coupled with a repeated message of zero tolerance for any discrimination of this group as the members are endowed with same rights and should be provided protection for the same reasons as for anybody else in the country.

Of late, human right activists have been advocating  the abolishment of death penalty, what do you think about this?
In terms of death penalty, the UN has developed and promotes a number of instruments on the formal and permanent abolition of the death penalty. A week ago, the UN System marked the fact that more 140 states, meaning a great majority of the countries in the world, have abolished the death penalty in one way or another.
And, even if the death penalty is still in the books of Tanzania, execution of these penalties have not been ordered for several years.  So, we may say that in practice, it is also not part of the Tanzanian sanctioning system any more.  The next question would then be to mirror this development in law, so that the criminal sanctioning system becomes reliable and predictable, not only for offenders but also for victims of serious crime and the public at large.

Don’t you think that, it is also a violation of human rights to keep prisoners who are in the death row without releasing them?
It is not a violation of rights as such, but depends on the circumstances of the trial and prison conditions. UN does not carry out prison monitoring so I cannot give an informed opinion on the situation within adult prisons in Tanzania.  But, the government and several civil society organisations have recently signalled an expectation that the question of death penalty and sanctions system will be up for discussion during the constitution reform review, once it takes off.  That seems to be the right way; it is in the constitution’s bill of rights that questions of death penalty and treatment of prisoners shall be settled.   So, I think we will soon see a clearer direction where we are going with this in Tanzania.

Is the UN trying to make efforts to push the government to speed up in terms of making a decision whether to do away with death penalty or to carry on with it?
Well, the UN would of course welcome  a clear commitment from the government through ratification of the human rights protocol abolishing the death penalty as well as the Convention Against Torture, regarding treatment of suspects, prisoners and other groups deprived of liberty.  It would mark an important step in Tanzania’s progressive approach to human rights, and perhaps additional opportunities for international support to the underfunded justice sector and prison reform initiatives.

Do you think the killings of albinos have been a stumbling block towards your efforts of promoting human rights?
For any country, a sudden rise  in killings of a particular group would be a devastating crack in the human rights situation.  We were witnessing abhorrent crimes and attacks on a vulnerable group of society that was already confronted with other unjustified abuses.  But, as much as the news of killings shocked the human rights community, the case also shows how the Government demonstrated a capability to address human rights violations as they arise.

UN is promoting rights of homosexuals and lesbianism. Don’t you think this contradicts African values?
Let’s first be clear on the UN stance. We are promoting tolerance for all minorities, whether characterised by ethnicity, age, disability or sexual orientation.  Not long time ago, the UN Human Rights Council commissioned an investigation into alarming trends of hate motivated attacks on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) society around the world and this week the Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights afforded a Ugandan citizen a prestigious international price for her courageous defence of the rights of the LGBT society in her country.

So, I do not know on what basis one can call promotion of these general human rights principles a contradiction to African values.  In fact, Tanzania and many other African States have voluntarily acceded to human rights conventions prohibiting all forms of discrimination and incorporated such standards in their constitutions or other acts of law.  There is further nothing in the Tanzanian legal framework that permits a citizen to defame or harass others on basis of their convictions or relationships.

As to the general call for decriminalisation, we are fully aware that legal reform takes time and might be useless unless foregone by changes in public opinion.   An informed and open dialogue among government representatives, human rights defenders, the LGBT society and other stakeholders has proven useful in other countries.  It helps to define the questions and clarify the facts in a discussion too often infected by bias and misperceptions of the claims of the LGBT society. This might be the way forward in Tanzania as well.

Tanzania has just completed the Universal Periodic Review, what are your comments on  recommendations made and the next steps?
We are very satisfied with the preliminary results of the inter-State discussions.  Many members of the Human Rights Council commended Tanzania for the transparent, inclusive  approach and constructive tone during the dialogue in Geneva.  We also think that the Government has made bold commitments.
There are several important undertakings in the field of the rule of law, violence against women and children, civil society relationships and human rights education and awareness rising.  There is also a strong reiteration towards the establishment of a national action plan for human rights.  As a privy to the work that has been done so far, I believe this is an important process.

A national human rights action plan can become a vehicle for implementation of recommendations from UPR and other international human rights review mechanisms.

Most of all, it would guarantee a continued, transparent and broad-based dialogue on the human rights situation in Tanzania for the years to come.

Man Prostitutes 10 Year Old Boys

The Citizen Saturday, 17 March 2012

A 10-year-old boy shook when asked about being prostituted to two other men by an adoptive father who regularly had sex with him, according to police, who said the boy was fearful of talking because he didn’t want to be taken from his home or separated from his new siblings.

The adoptive father has been charged with raping three boys in his care and compelling prostitution by hiring the 10-year-old out for sex. He and two other men remained in jail on rape charges.
Federal and local law enforcement officials said they’re widening the investigation into child sexual exploitation allegations against the father, who worked out of his home as an insurance claims adjuster. His name is being withheld to protect the children’s identities.

Troy police said they impounded the father’s truck and seized four laptops from the home and a video camera and two wooden paddles from the master bedroom.

School officials said the man had recently withdrawn the three adopted children from school, saying he would home school them. A neighbour said he had no idea anything lurid might be going on in the home.

“You don’t know what goes on inside people’s homes,” said neighbour Ed Rogers, who had lived across the street from the man the past five years in a neighborhood lined with single-story ranch homes, typical in this working class city of 25,000 people about 20 miles north of Dayton. “I’ll never look at that house the same way again. I’ll just look at it with sickness.”

The man at the center of the investigation is a longtime Troy resident who had been involved in a local youth basketball programme. Police Capt. Chris Anderson said police so far haven’t found any signs of any inappropriate behavior with other children, even as calls poured in from worried parents.

“Shock and disbelief,” Anderson said of the community’s reaction.
Rogers and his wife, Sherry, said the man was something of a loner but would chit-chat when out mowing his lawn or when the kids were playing outside. Sherry Rogers recalled the day that his blinds were usually drawn shut at his home, a few blocks from an elementary school.

Police said they hadn’t found any records of past criminal charges against the man. He had adopted three children, including a 9-year-old girl, and was in the processing of adopting the fourth who lived with him.

The children came from Texas, where state officials said Thursday they have been reviewing their records but had found nothing out of the ordinary or outside of procedures, which include background checks, and parental training.
“We’re sick about the results, but it’s not that the process was not followed,” said Patrick Crimmins, spokesman for the Texas family services agency. “This appears to be a tragic but isolated incident.”

Ohio children’s services officials said they were also reviewing the adoptions, handled through a private agency certified by the state. Ohio spokesman Ben Johnson said the adoptive father was first certified as a foster parent in Miami County in 2005. He said Ohio and Texas officials were in communication about the case.

The case comes as Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Attorney General Mike DeWine have made investigating human trafficking and exploitation of minors a priority. “This is a horrible situation,” DeWine said. “It’s always shocking whenever you have children who are abused, and when children are sexually abused … this is so reprehensible.”

An undercover detective in Franklin County, part of a state task force, talked online with the adoptive father, who said he would arrange sex with a 10-year-old boy, Troy police said. He had been led to the adoptive father by another man who had posted a Craigslist ad wanting “taboo” sex, police said.

The adoptive father was going to meet the undercover detective at a McDonald’s in a nearby city, but police moved in two days before the scheduled meeting, according to records. They confronted the man with text messages and online communications about arranging sex with the boy, police said in a case report filed in court.

Federal and state prosecutors and investigators and police from three Ohio cities were meeting to discuss how to proceed. The FBI said it was pursuing federal sexual exploitation charges.(Agencies)

Concern over Increased Access of Pornographic Materials to Children in Tanzania

Bernard James, the Citizen Sunday, 27 May 2012 08:15

Pornography, which is illegal under Tanzanian law, is increasingly being embraced by children as a favourite source of entertainment, prompting alarmed parents and teachers to demand quick and concerted action to curb the trend.

The  concerned adults are upset and puzzled that, while the laws against pornography are clear-cut,  enforcement  are seemingly unbothered,  as the lives of children are being destroyed, and the  academic progress of pupils and students are curtailed.

Easy access to pornographic materials through publications, videos, and internet sites is influencing Children to experiment with, and eventually  becoming full-scale practitioners of natural sex, homosexuality, sodomy, child-to-child sex, and lesbianism.

The mushrooming of backyard, unlicensed movie theatres is fuelling the problem, according to a month-long survey by The Citizen on Sunday.

Children from pre-teen age onwards watch pornographic movies in the halls for a small fee, which  is welcomed by the operators as a source of livelihood, who are not bothered by the negative moral effects of their trade.

Some parents are fooled into believing that their children patronize the theatres to watch soccer and decent movies. In some cases, however, information leaks and the bitter reality registers.  A local government leader in Mikocheni ‘A’, Ms Zamda Chia, said she had received many complaints from parents over  their children dodging classes to watch porno movies in the theatres.

She  also revealed that  some  schools were centres of  evil behaviour, citing the  case of  a standard four pupil who had been seducing and sodomising fellow boys in toilets at school.

Upon being detected and quizzed, she said, he confessed that he had been influenced by pornographic movies he had watched in Mtwara where he lived previously.

A prominent psychologist, Dr Andrew Mchomvu, remarked: “This phenomenon has exposed children to practices like child-to-child sex and sodomy which were not there before. Incidents of sodomy and rape are now common in families and schools due to the floodgate of porno in our communities.”

He warned that exposing children to pornography was one of the worst forms of sexual abuse often disregarded but has devastating psychological effects on children.

“They victimize children in many ways, including psychological torture, fear, depression, and even nightmares. It kills the moral fabric of a society and has very negative consequences in the whole issue of transfer of learning,” he noted.

Mr Abdallah Sheweji, 54, a father of four,  told The Citizen on Sunday that the situation at his Tandale kwa Mtogole locality  was serious as the porno film shows had  become a normal thing.
“We have lost control over our own children…it is  the owners of these porn halls who are presiding over our children…they show the films as if it is a legal business. But it is very sad that they make a lot of money by spoiling our children,” he lamented.

Mr Emannuel Simon, head teacher of  Ali Hassan Mwinyi primary school,  said staff had seized  several porno CDs  and  X-rated CDs  that pupils had hidden in their  bags and  had informed their parents.

According to him, local government authorities were  not doing enough to curb illegal film shows.

The Citizen on Sunday  has discovered that  porn CDs are  sold openly and cheaply (between Sh1000 and Sh3000)  in many places in Dar es Salaam.

Although the laws in Tanzania forbid selling, holding and distributing pornographic material, no serious crackdown against the culprits has been mounted.

The Executive Director of the National Film and Stage Plays Censorship Board, Ms Joyce Fissoo,  said unlicensed theatres were fuelling immorality among children.
Dar es Salaam had more than 1,200 unlicensed film theatres, she said, adding: “My call to local government authorities is that it is their role to end up this mess for it is they who know where these backstreet theatres are located.”

She said her agency had already formed regional and district boards to help enforcing the laws.

She praised  Sengerema and Manyoni district councils, as well as Tanga city authorities for  enforcing the law vigorously.

Dr Datius Rweyemamu from the University of Dar es Salaam’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology says although studies have shown there is no relationship between exposure to pornography and the age at which Tanzanian children begin sex, the need to protect children from pornography heavily depend on parents and guardians.
According to Demographic and Health Survey 2010, the age at first sex has never changed in the last four decades since 1977. The report says boys and girls starts sex at the age of between 16 and 17 years.

“So when a parent or a religious leader complains,  its like they are blaming themselves. There is no law preventing a parent or teacher from protecting her child from bad behaviour,” he says.

He believes that every institution that a child passes through has its norms and values that a child is taught.

“So the issue here should not be circulation pornography but the reluctance of institutions responsible for protecting children – the family, religion, schools, local government authorities and the media-to fulfill its responsibilities,” he says.

He urges parents and the Tanzania Communication Regulatory Authority (TCRA) to take the lead in protecting children from pornography on the internet.

“Where is TCRA?”, he asks. I don’t think it is helping us to control what should be viewed in our internet or televisions.

Its Director General, Professor John  Nkoma said although the agency was mandated  to licence internet service providers, it did not have control over the content. “We act as a road that allow cars to pass on but we do not have the power to choose what kind of a car should pass on it,”  Professor Nkoma said.

“The only way to get rid of that is to revoke licences of internet service providers which I think is not that possible. They too do not have control over the content. A website is created in the US but you can watch even here in Tanzania,” he said.

According to Professor Nkoma, circulation of pornographic materials was part of cyber crime which has become a major global challenge in telecommunication industry.

Poster: Third Mombasa Counter Trafficking Symposium for the Faith Based and Grassroots Organizations

Stiffer Laws Called for Against Rapists

From Nation 17th May 2012

Women MPs on Thursday called on the government to put in place stringent measures to safeguard women against rape and domestic violence.

Nominated MP Rachel Shebesh said at the launch of the international campaign to stop rape and gender violence in Nairobi that Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association was working to ensure laws against rape were fully implemented.

She said the fight against the vices would only succeed if the Judiciary acted on pending cases promptly and imposed heavy penalties.

The director of the Greenbelt Movement, the organisers of the event, Prof Njoroge Karanja, called on the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Keriako Tobiko, to ensure that 4,500 rape cases filed during the 2007/08 post-election violence were prosecuted.

“A taskforce is already at work to establish whether the law against rape is being observed because the implementation on ground has been a major issue,” he said.

This comes after the Economic Survey 2012 revealed that defilement and rape topped the category of offences last year.

According to the survey report released on Tuesday, 3,352 cases of defilement and 1,051 rape cases were reported last year, a 19.4 per cent and 50.4 per cent increase, respectively, compared to 2010.

A walk against rape will be flagged off this morning at the Freedom Corner, in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.

Kenyan Women to Benefit from Leadership & Integrity Law

The Usawa Newsletter April Issue published by Gender and Governance found here

The Leadership and Integrity Bill which is being crafted by the ministry of justice and constitutional affairs is going to throw wide open opportunities for women into public leadership positions as it locks corrupt people who have perfected the art of bad leadership over the years.

The Bill which seeks to establish high standards for people to qualify into elective and public service leadership positions is going to lock out many individuals whose characters and integrity are questionable – most of whom have been responsible for entrenching corruption and impunity in the country through successive regimes since independence.

The law being crafted is supposed to see the implementation of Chapter Six of the Constitution of the Republic of Kenya 2012 which clearly stipulates the ethics and integrity thresholds of public holders most of which have dominated by men over the decades as women were relegated to play second fiddle.

It means that individuals who have been involved matters considered improper like facing criminal cases, stealing, any form of violence, sexual crimes, crimes against humanity, sexual crimes, abuse of office, corruption among many others will not be eligible to hold any public office as may be determined by the law.

Considering the fact that over the decades, most individuals whose ethics and integrities have been highly questionable and not above board, yet remained in public offices for many years without being relieved off their jobs, with the new law in force this will open the window of opportunity for women and men of integrity. According to the Permanent Secretary ministry of justice and constitutional affairs,  technocrats in his ministry are working on the round the clock to complete the Leadership and Integrity Bill 2012 in order to release it to the parliament for debate, also get public in-put to craft the law to ensure that it is place before the next general elections.

The PS  says it was the duty of all Kenyans and stakeholders to ensure that this law was in place and enforced so that people can elect only leaders whose integrity is above board including appopintment officers into public offices of high integrity.” Kibara says there should be strict implementation of Chapter Six of the constitution which deals with ethics and integrity of public officers. Any serving state officer facing serious charges in court must step aside immediately or be suspended from office pending the outcome of the case.

Sex slavery for East African women despite 50 years of independence

Story in the East African of 6th May 2012 by Joachim Buwembo

So, when are we going to get serious about the trafficking of girls from East Africa? Recent reports indicate that 600 young Ugandan ladies who were lured to Iraq with promises of jobs like working in supermarkets are now unaccounted for. And who is so naïve as to imagine that so many black women who cannot speak Arabic just merged into the crowd like they would in America?

And if the less exposed Uganda can supply 600 sex slaves to just one country, what about Kenya and Tanzania, which have greater exposure to foreign “opportunities”? What about Rwanda, where most girls have features that are supposedly marketable out there?

We are seeing more media reports of girls being lured to places like Malaysia for “good” jobs and the minute they touch down in the promised land, the traffickers confiscate their passports and start them on a life of slavery until they become too weak and their captors kill them off. Some bodies have been brought back home with unbelievable signs of torture. The question is, which government departments are supposed to stop innocent girls being lured into sex slavery and eventual, accelerated death?

When HIV/Aids struck, it was the ministries of health that had to set up programmes to combat the epidemic. And things worked well until donor cash started coming in and the programmes became a sham, but awareness had been created on how to avoid infection and treat the infected. Now who is going to create awareness that job offers abroad can lead to slavery and death? If we wait for donor projects to fight trafficking, the vultures will do what they have done to the HIV/Aids money.

What I find most painful is that most girls who get trafficked are promised jobs paying salaries of $500 per month. This is money that someone can earn at home in the agriculture sector if they are just shown the right thing to do. For a poor woman to sell all she has and borrow from relatives to purchase a ticket that leads her to the most horrible things being done to her and then death, all in search of $500 — such things should not happen to nations that have been independent for 50 years. All the victims were born after Independence, only to end up in foreign slavery.
At least if the girls were being lured to Europe and America, they would have recourse to the law if their employers turned out to be traffickers. But when one is lured to a part of the world where a black person is accorded the same or less dignity than a dog, the chances of escaping slavery are nearly nil.

Stories have been published of women who have painfully left their children home to go and work “for a couple of years and return to invest,” only to end up in the worst form of slavery. Maybe I am ignorant but I am not aware of government programmes in this region that have made every girl aware of the dangers of pursuing job offers in “promising” new destinations outside the traditional ones — America and Western Europe. The least the governments can do is create awareness ,so that if some girls still take up the poisoned offers, they do so aware of the risks.

Joachim Buwembo is a Knight International fellow for development journalism. E-mail: buwembo@gmail.com

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