RESPECT! Although Tanzania has ratified the main
international and regional women’s rights protection instruments, many of their
provisions continue to be violated in both law and practice. The Coalition of
the Campaign remains particularly concerned about the following violations in
Tanzania: the persistence of discriminatory laws; violence against women;
unequal access to education, employment and health services; and violations of
the right to property.
Some positive developments…
The Coalition of the Campaign acknowledges the adoption in recent years of a
number of laws and policies aimed at improving respect for women’s rights,
including the reform of property laws to establish equal rights to acquire, own
and use land (Village Lands Act No. 5) and the implementation of programmes to
promote women’s access to education (Education Sector Development Programme
Advances have also been made in women’s political participation. In 2005,
the 14th amendment to the Constitution increased the number of seats reserved
for female Members of Parliament from 15 to 30 percent. After the 2005 general
elections, 98 of a total of 321 MPs were women (30.4%). The Tanzanian
government has stated that it aims to increase the number of female MPs to 50
percent by 2010 in conformity with the Southern African Development Community’s
(SADC’s) Protocol on Gender and Development of 2008. However, the
representation of women in other areas of public and professional life remains
The Coalition also welcomes the ratification of the Optional Protocol to
CEDAW in 2006 and the Maputo Protocol in 2007.
DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE PERSIST
Many discriminatory legislative provisions remain in force in Tanzania.
Propositions for amendments to some of these laws, which would remove some
discriminatory provisions, have met with strong resistance and reforms have
stalled. Examples of discriminatory legislation include:
Under the Law of Marriage Act 1971, polygamy is authorised (s. 10), whilst
women are expressly prohibited from having more than one husband (s. 15).
Proposed amendments to the Marriage Act would not remove these provisions. The
legal minimum age for marriage is 15 years for girls and 18 years for boys (s.
13). A marriage contract can be concluded without the consent of the bride, on
the basis of an agreement reached between the father of the bride and the groom
The Penal Code allows for the marriage of girls under 15 provided that the
marriage is not consummated before the age of 15 (s.138).
The Law of Persons Act allows for the payment of a bride price. Upon
payment, the wife becomes the “property” of the husband and the husband’s
Three systems of law apply to inheritance according to the Judicature and
Application of Laws Act 1920:
Statutory law: the Indian Succession Act 1865 provides for
one-third of the estate to pass to the widow and two-thirds to the children. If
there are no children, then the widow is entitled to half of the estate (the
other half passes to the deceased’s parents or other blood relatives).
Islamic law: provides for widows to receive one-eighth of
the deceased husband’s property if there are children and one-fourth if there
are no children.
Customary laws: under the Local Customary Law (Declaration
No. 4) Order 1963, a widow cannot inherit property of the deceased husband. The
government has stated its intention to review discriminatory laws that prevent
women from inheriting property, but no amendments have yet been introduced.
Nationality laws The Citizenship Act limits women’s right
to transfer their nationality to their children and foreign husbands (ss. 7(5),
Domestic violence and sexual violence are highly prevalent in Tanzania.
Customs and traditional practices condone the harassment and abuse of women and
a culture of impunity prevails. Cases of violence are underreported and those
that are reported are often settled out of court. Existing laws do not
adequately protect women from violence. The Penal Code does not contain a
specific provision on domestic violence and does not criminalise marital rape.
In 2001, the Tanzanian government adopted a National Plan of Action to Combat
Violence Against Women and Children (2001 –2015), but the effective
implementation of this plan has been hindered by inadequate funding and the
lack of a comprehensive legal aid system that can be accessed by women. In
2008, the Government announced its intention to amend laws that perpetuate
gender-based violence but no such reforms have been introduced.
Despite the adoption of the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act (SOSPA)
in 1998 which prohibits female genital mutilation (FGM) of girls under the age
of 18 years, and the National Plan of Action to Combat FGM (2001- 2015), FGM
continues to be practised, in particular in the regions of Arusha, Dodoma,
Kilimanjaro, Kigoma, Manyara, Mara and Morogoro. The continued legality of the
practice upon women over 18 years of age is also of grave concern. In addition,
the law does not provide for a minimum sentence, which has resulted in courts
exercising their discretion to impose marginal sentences on offenders.
• Obstacles to access to education and employment
Although some progress has been made in increasing girls’ access to
education, including the recent achievement of gender parity in primary school
enrolment, fewer girls enter secondary school and university as well as
vocational and technical education. Traditional attitudes represent significant
obstacles to girls’ education and there are high drop-out rates due to early
marriages, pregnancies and domestic responsibilities. Girls who become pregnant
are often expelled from Tanzanian schools.
The public sector remains male dominated and the majority of women are in
lower or middle level jobs. Many women in the informal sector are in a
precarious situation, in particular those working in the agricultural sector,
as well as small business, food processing and handicrafts. They lack job
security and access to social benefits. Sexual harassment also constitutes a
serious problem for women workers.
• Obstacles to access to health
The maternal mortality rate remains very high (950 per 100,000 births in
2005), and life expectancy of women has decreased in recent years. Many women
do not have access to sexual and reproductive health services and there are no
family planning services.
• Obstacles to access to justice
Under the Constitution of 1977, every person in Tanzania is entitled to own
property. The Land Act No. 4 of 1999, as amended in 2004, and the Village Lands
Act No. 5 of 1999 reversed discriminatory customary practice connected with
women’s rights to land. However, despite these provisions, women, in particular
those in rural areas, lack effective access to ownership of land, largely due
to a lack of awareness of these laws or on how to enforce their rights. Whilst
63% of the female labor force is engaged in agricultural labor, only 19% of
women own titled land. Furthermore, the amended land laws do not address the
issue of discriminatory inheritance rights.
THE COALITION OF THE CAMPAIGN CALLS ON THE AUTHORITIES OF TANZANIA
• Reform or repeal all discriminatory legislation in
conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol, including discriminatory
provisions within the Law of Marriage Act, the Penal Code, the Law of Persons
Act, the Indian Succession Act 1865, the Local Customary Law Order and the
• Harmonise civil, religious and customary law, in
conformity with CEDAW and the Maputo Protocol and ensure that where conflicts
arise between statutory legal provisionsand customary law, the statutory
• Strengthen laws and policies to protect women from
violence including by: amending the Penal Code to add a specific
provision on domestic violence, criminalizing marital rape and all other sexual
offences; establishing a legal aid system to provide assistance to victims;
implementing training for all law enforcement personnel on violence against
women and providing gender-sensitive support; and establishing shelters for
women victims of violence.
• Strengthen measures aimed at eliminating FGM, including
by: extending the prohibition to include women over 18 and establishing a
minimum sentence commensurate with the seriousness of the crime; ensuring the
effective prosecution and punishment of offenders; and implementing
awareness-raising programmes particularly targeting the most affected
• Reform or eliminate discriminatory cultural practices and
stereotypes, including through awareness-raising programmes targeting
women and men, traditional and community leaders.
• Eliminate obstacles to the education of girls and women,
including by adopting measures to retain girls in school; and implementing
awareness-raising programmes to overcome stereotypes and traditional
• Ensure women’s equal access to employment, including by
strengthening measures to combat sexual harassment in the workplace.
• Strengthen efforts to increase women’s access to health-care
facilities, to increase knowledge of and access to affordable
contraceptive methods, improve sex education and establish family planning
• Eliminate discrimination against women with respect to ownership
of land, including by raising awareness on land and property rights,
especially of rural women.
• Implement all recommendations issued by the CEDAW
Committee in July 2008.
• Focal Point: LHRC
• CEDAW Committee, Concluding Comments, July 2008
• Alternative report to the CEDAW Committee 2008, Tanzania CEDAW NGO
THE CAMPAIGN FOCAL POINT IN TANZANIA
Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) LHRC is an independent
NGO with the mission of achieving a just and equitable society, by empowering
the public and promoting, reinforcing and safeguarding human rights and good
governance in Tanzania. www.humanrights.or.tz
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