In Tanzania women’s legal and human rights were constrained by inadequate legal literacy among women. The main reason being that the existing legal system does not reach the majority of women who live in rural areas. There is also discriminatory application of statutory laws, inadequate legislative protective mechanism such as protection orders, baring orders and safety orders in the legal system and insensitive investigations and prosecution of cases involving violence against women and children.
Like many societies in Africa, customary laws and practices remain discriminatory against women on issues of property inheritance particularly on land, as well as institutionalised violence against women e.g. wife battering, rape, female genital mutilation and the existence, side by side, of a multitude of statutory, religious and customary laws that might be conflicting.
To get away with the situation, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania committed itself to improve women’s legal capacity through legal literacy schemes and mass campaigns to educate women and men on women’s human rights. The objective was to enhance the status of women through increased knowledge of their legal and human rights. The Government also put in place a mechanism within the legal system that intends to protect women and children. This incorporates human rights teaching in school as well as in adult education programmes. Emphasis on para-legal training so as to offer women extra help at their first point of call in issues affecting their legal rights since the existed legal system did not reach many women especially in the rural areas.
The Government in collaboration with NGOs has been working to remove discriminatory provisions in existing laws, which do not grant the rights and freedom of women. The Government planned to redraft inheritance Laws, the Marriage Act and follows up the convention on the rights of the child. The Government is in the process currently establishing a Commission on Human Rights in Tanzania. The objective of starting this commission was to co-ordinate the strategies for promoting ways of fighting against violation of human rights.
The Government has passed several laws in favour of women i.e. Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1998, the Land Law Act of 1999 and Village Land Act of 1999. The first Law protects women, girls and children from sexual harassment and abuse. The last two laws repeal and replace previous legislations on land matters thus enabling women to enjoy equal rights with men in access, ownership and control of land.
To complement all the above activities, publicity was promoted by using Mass Media in sensitising and making the public aware of the Legal System. The Government and a number of NGOs have identified and spoken on several areas where women’s rights are still violated. They have also worked to sensitise the public as well as women issues of gender violence.
However, the Government has encountered some constraints in the efforts to enhance legal capacity to grassroots women. These include financial incapability to sensitize the grassroot women on their rights and to provide legal assistance in front of the courts of law.