DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (IRIN)
In a bid to break the silence around violence against children, Tanzanian authorities launched a five-year plan on 9 August to eliminate all forms of violence against children, including sexual, physical and emotional abuse.
"Levels of violence [against children] reported are high in all settings; forms of violence reported and described are equally disturbing, including being beaten, tortured, sexually assaulted and even murdered," Sophia Simba, the Minister for Community Development, Gender and Children, said in Dar es Salaam during the launch of a survey on the subject.
The government survey covered 3,739 females and males aged between 13 and 24 in various households countrywide.
The report identifies the perpetrators of violence as including parents, guardians, relatives and teachers as well as other people entrusted with daily care of children.
Gideon Kwesigabo of the Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences (MUHAS), who presented the report's findings, said sexual violence against children was rampant in the country, with three out of every 10 females experiencing sexual violence at least once before reaching the age of 18.
Among males of the same age group, Kwesigabo said, 13.4 percent reported experiencing sexual violence at least once before turning 18.
"The most common form of violence experienced was touching of various parts of the body followed by attempted sexual intercourse," Kwesigabo told government officials, diplomats, representatives of civil society and journalists at a closed-door briefing. "Most of the respondents said their first sexual experience was forceful, meaning that they were raped."
Moreover, Kwesigabo said, three-quarters of those interviewed reported being physically abused by parents, relatives and teachers before age 18.
"The majority said they were punched, whipped or kicked," he said.
He added that a quarter of those interviewed reported experiencing emotional violence such as threats of being abandoned, killed or kicked out of home by parents, guardians and relatives.
Simba said the five-year National Plan for Prevention and Response to Violence Against Children was "a multi-sector plan geared at enhancing initiatives to break the silence around violence against children, take further ongoing and future initiatives pertaining to health, education, HIV/AIDS, judiciary and community policing.
"The police force has already established gender and children's desks at all stations through the country, where issues relating to violence and cruelty are handled in the atmosphere of confidentiality."
Paul Chagonja, chief of operations in Tanzania's police force, said cases of sexual violence against children were being handled confidentially and professionally.
"We are handling the cases swiftly and the judiciary normally gives us full co-operation," he said.
Shukuru Kawambwa, the Minister for Education, said his ministry was committed to ensuring that all children had easy and equal access to education at all levels.
"Education is the basic right of every child in the country," he said, adding that the government had banned corporal punishment in schools.
Asha-Rose Migiro, the UN Deputy Secretary-General, who was the chief guest at the launch, said Tanzania was the first African country to carry out a survey on the nature and scope of violence against children as proposed by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2008.
She termed the revelations in the report "shocking and disturbing".
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