Source: allAfrica
PEOPLE in various parts of the country have misinterpreted culture and traditional values, which has led to a high incidence of genderbased violence, especially against women.

This came to the fore recently during a training for journalists on the vice held for journalists by Tanzania Women Media Associat ion(TAMWA). During discussions, many journos, who have been across many parts of the country said many men violate the rights of women, claiming it is their right as husbands to do so, yet the African culture does not embrace violence.

"Some say they beat their women to discipline them, yet most are really torturing the women. They also still think that because they married the lady, they should now treat her as their property," said one of the journalists from Shinyanga.

The state of GBV in some parts of the country is alarming. The ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation identify the main forms of GBV as wife battering (30%), marital rape (12%), defilement (25%), rape (20%) and sexual exploitation (13%). Cases of violence have got to be reduced drastically if Tanzanians are to proudly call themselves a civilised nation.

Rape and sodomy still afflict our women and children; girls are still being denied education in some societies that prefer to cite poverty as the excuse for this.

In pastoralist communities boys are being pulled out from schools to tend cattle, especially in these harsh times of drought. Women are being beaten, maimed and even killed in the privacy of their homes; in certain areas they are being denied the right to inherit property; in political arena women candidates are threatened with violence; and so on.

Gender-based violence often evokes images of abused women and girls because men are viewed as the aggressors. Therefore, for peace to prevail in homes and in nations, men must be involved in the campaign.

A lot of men claim ignorance to the reference of gender-based violence and it is thus important that they gain education on the various forms of this vice. Some select churchbased associations that preach real manhood must be supported in a larger scale to reach out to more men and show them how to provide positive leadership and guidance in their homes.

Charity begins at home and a man who shows his sons how to treat women with respect and love "will perpetuate this practice on a national scale, which will translate to peaceful coexistence around the world between the two genders. There must be something wrong with a man who feels no guilt about having sex with an eleven-year-old girl then goes ahead to say it was consensual because the girl did not complain.

There must be something wrong with a man who preys on a toddler playing innocently in the yard, violates her violently then leaves her for dead. There must be something wrong with a man who beats his wife to the point of death and feels no remorse, instead blaming her for the violence. A violent nation will never progress.

Certain practices also mitigate against a society growing wealthy. Giving birth to many children in the face of abject poverty simply because it is a cultural practice or an ego, then staring at them hopelessly as they starve to death is a violent crime in itself.

This year's theme, "From Peace in the home to peace in the world: Let's challenge militarism and end violence against Women" is as good place to start as any. The enduring partnerships with organisations such as TAMWA and UNFPA are useful, considering their stated aim of fighting for social justice and elimination of all forms of violence against women in both the public and private spheres.

However, it should not be forgotten that if women, who make up more than 50 per cent of the global population, are under threat, it becomes a gigantic problem indeed. It means annual campaigns such as the 16 Days of Activism become like annual tree planting days and serve little purpose.

A better proposition is to rope in every member of society to welcome refugees (it is not an NGO problem since anyone can become displaced), encourage more women to take up visible leadership roles, advance girl child rights, protect their sexuality and reproductive health, comfortable in the knowledge that they are our mothers, sister, grannies and wives.

As long as empowering women is not a ritualised once-a-year affair, the gains would be immense for society as a whole. Only recently, women's rights groups were demanding that a new constitution clearly define the word 'person' to mean a man and a woman in a bid to promote gender equality.

The groups have also suggested significant changes in the electoral systems with the aim to give women more political presence in a new constitution whose draft was presented in June this year for public scrutiny. Although article 46 of the draft constitution guarantees some women's rights, it doesn't fully address the issues that affect women.

Women's rights activists among other things, are lobbying for a 50-50 representation of women in Tanzania politics, the right to own land and widow's right to inherit property and protection against gender -based violence. Ruth Meena, from Women Fund Tanzania said gender equality was an important issue in the new constitution because without it women would still be oppressed.

Citing Article 93 of the draft constitution, which gives the president the power to appoint ministers and deputy ministers, Meena said such a clause did not consider gender since it does not oblige the president to appoint an equal number of men and women.

Analysts said that although the current constitution guarantees equality between men and women, it does not address many challenges that women face in their lives.

"Women still face a lot of problems in economic empowerment and lack of access to decision-marking organs, there are many laws and customary practices that remain discriminatory against women," said Usu Mallya, the Executive director of Tanzania Gender Networking Programme.

She said the government needs to put in place legal and policy arrangements that would facilitate equal participation of women in top leadership positions. "A democratic constitution must acknowledge substantive gender equality and collective voices of men and women,"she said.

Mallya observed that while Tanzania is likely to achieve the MDG target on gender, high school dropout rates for girls and gender parity in secondary and tertiary education fall short. The activists also pointed out other shortfalls, especially setting a minimum age for girls' marriage.

According to Ananilea Nkya, the former executive director of Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA), women's dignity must be respected and protected regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or disability. "We need a new constitution that will give women the right and access to ownership of land and benefit from the natural resources that the country is endowed with," she said.

Women groups are also calling for the new constitution to clearly specify basic education as both primary and secondary education, since most girls are often denied the right to education. Gender-based violence is not a way of life WOMEN demonstrating against GBV.

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