A Child Protection Case Study from Tanzania. By Thadei Kamisa

Background

This is the true story of a 16 years old girl. From her childhood she grew under the nurture and care of her parents.

Her family belongs to a pastoral community, much of their time is spent in the bush grazing flocks of livestock. They belong to a Tanzanian tribe which is one of the least developed and primitive tribes, still practicing old-stone age ways of life. When she was 9 years old, her parents separated and her father transferred to another village 70km away, and her mother chose to remain to take care of the family.

At the age of 13 while still living with her mother, a person belonging to the tribal community visited them, with the intention of marrying her. Her mother accepted but her daughter rejected the idea because she was too young to handle marital responsibilities. Her mother and other relatives were displeased by the refusal of their daughter to marry the guy.

In this tribal community, girls are normally married at the age of 12, any refusal by a girl to marry a man at that given age, is considered intransigent and the elders will do anything to evict the person from the family. Eventually, in retaliation, her own mother and brother colluded with another elderly man to marry her.

Against her will, arrangements were made for her to marry that elderly person. The man is 55 years old involved in pastoral and farming activities. After marriage they relocated.

During my interview with the girl, she confessed that she was forced to marry the man because of family pressure. The family was driven by a dowry paid to the family by the man, who offered four cows and a huge sum of money and ultimately took the girl despite her age.

Marital life with the man

The girl told me she had lived with the man for three years under difficult and dreadful conditions beyond endurance. More often she was subjected to physical attacks such as bullying, kicks and strikes by sticks when she happened to offend her husband. She used to spend all her day time grazing livestock in the bush in search of pastures. At her return home, she would be supposed to cook for the man, and do whatever she would be told to do despite her tiredness.

According to her account, during her stay, her relatives paid no regard to her because none of them visited her at the place she was living.  As such she had no body to report the grievances and resentments on the cruel acts done to her by the man. She also felt rejected. When unfair treatment continued in their marriage, she decided that the only option to save her life was to escape. She decided to escape because of three reasons:

Firstly, she was regularly beaten by the man and insulted even for reasons she could not understand, as a result she regularly sustained injuries and bruises on her body. Secondly, the man was often suspecting her of sleeping with other men in the bush while grazing livestock; this was attributed by the fact that the man was extremely jealousy because he was impotent unless by taking Viagra then he would be able to perform sex. This problem made him suspicious of her that his wife might be sleeping with other men in the bush to satisfy herself. With this concern, the man kept abusing her sexually every time she returned home to see whether she slept with another person or not.

The third reason was that, the girl had by mistake lost four calves while grazing; she knew if the man realized disappearance of the calves she could even be killed the only way she thought could save her life was to escape. That is when she finally decided to walk a long distance on foot to escape the horror.

Escape and Arrival in a local town

The girl managed to escape, she walked long distance along the wilderness risking wild animals but she finally arrived in a large local town. She was stranded in streets for a day looking for food and shelter before a Good Samaritan woman picked her and gave her shelter the next day. She was given food and clothes by her host.

Police was notified about the matter and decided to intervene to take the girl to the station for her safety. The girl was brought under their supervision in collaboration with me, as Social welfare Officer in the town. I managed to file a suit against the man for rape charges.

In collaboration with Police gender desk, I initiated efforts to find relatives of the girl while conducting interviews with her. Unfortunately it was not easy to reach her relatives because many of them live in the bush, separate from the rest of the community, and some went into hiding for fear of being apprehended after hearing that the girl was in the hands of the authorities.

Nevertheless, three days after the girl escaped, the man who identified himself as the husband of the girl presented himself at Police station in a bid to report his wife’s disappearance. He was immediately apprehended and kept under arrest.

The reflections of the child

On interviewing the girl, she made it clear that because of her family’s betrayal, she wanted neither to go back home nor to any of her relatives. She feared being forced to go back to the man if she returned home. She was aware that her family would force her go back to the man avoiding paying back the dowry with fines. According to tribal traditions when marriage is broken dowry paid has to be returned with fines. The girl went further threatening taking her own life if she would be forced to return home.

In that regard, I had to look for a place of safety to send her away from home where she would grow and study. I called the ministry of health and social welfare to book for a residential placement. I got a place for her, and I was allowed to take her to the placement.

Based on above statements, it is undoubtedly clear that the child’s rights were infringed, and the man who married the girl acted against the law. That is why the authorities arrested him, and he is currently awaiting trial.

The family environment in which this girl lived still posed a threat for her to return, because nothing more would have been done than forcibly taking her back to her husband. The child in her own interests has made it clear that she neither wanted to go home, nor to any relative. Therefore, in consideration of her safety, I had to fight for her admission in approved residential home.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wanted to share this story with you so that we can help one another in this network, on how to tackle various challenges which children face in every corner of this world.

There are so many of these child rights violation incidents but for those which I shall manage to come across with, I will not hesitate to tell you. God bless you, thanks.

 

 

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