Tanzania Can Do More to Protect Its Women and Girls and Promote Gender Equality

DAR ES SALAAM — While there are many promising opportunities to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality in Tanzania, the high rates of gender-based violence in the country remain a serious concern, according to two new World Bank Group studies which call for the Government of Tanzania to continue to strengthen the policy and legal environment to protect the nation’s women and girls.

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; and the effectiveness of concrete policy and programmatic interventions that address these underlying drivers. The Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Assessment focuses on GBV legislation and policies, systems and coordination, and response and prevention programming.

“It is encouraging to see the commitment of policymakers to end violence against women and children in Tanzania,” said Mara Warwick, World Bank Country Director. “However, as our studies show, existing efforts such as the National Plans of Action need to be supported by sustainable funding for their implementation. 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.”

The analysis shows that despite the comprehensive framework for preventing and responding to GBV and Violence Against Children (VAC) through the National Plans of Action (NPA, 2017- 2022), and the establishment of ample government coordination mechanisms, violence against women and children remains a nationwide problem. More than 20 percent of all women aged 15-49 years have experienced physical violence in the last year (40 percent in their lifetime), and about 75 percent of children experience physical violence by a relative before the age of 18. Moreover, 58 percent of women and 40 percent of men believe a husband is justified in beating his wife under certain circumstances.

According to the studies, the high rates of GBV, including intimate partner violence, are attributable to two key drivers—i) social norms, with exacerbating risk factors in the high rates of early marriage and childbirth; low levels of economic independence and education for women and ii) women having lower levels of agency and decision-making power due to their lower participation in employment, their lower earnings, the age gap between husbands and wives, and being in a polygamous relationship.

“To combat GBV, it is important to build legal literacy among the population through translation of laws and policies, as well as support to widespread community outreach and sensitization,” said Yaa Pokua Afriyie Oppong, World Bank Sector Leader and report co-author.

“Global evidence suggests that investments to keep girls in school may be particularly critical for reducing child marriage and early childbearing,” said Inaam ul Haq, World Bank Program Leader and report co-author.

The authors make several recommendations in each of the areas of investigation including 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.

Additionally, a review of the NPAs’ National Community and outreach is recommended in order to ensure alignment with best practices for prevention of GBV, together with investing in improvements to GBV information management systems to ensure standardized and quality GBV data is collected throughout the country.

The Gender Assessment was the foundational analytical work supporting the 17th Tanzania Economic Update, Empowering Women—Expanding Access to Assets and Economic Opportunities, launched in March 2022.

 

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