Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2018, 17:46 GMT

Tanzania: Situation of women victims of domestic violence, including legislation and the availability of protection and support services

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 15 July 2008
Citation / Document Symbol TZA102862.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Tanzania: Situation of women victims of domestic violence, including legislation and the availability of protection and support services, 15 July 2008, TZA102862.E, available at: [accessed 20 January 2018]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Statistics and Prevalent Attitudes

Sources report that domestic violence is widespread in Tanzania (AI 2008; US 11 Mar. 2008, Sec. 5), but according to the MKUKUTA Status Report 2006, no national data on domestic violence is available (Tanzania Dec. 2006, 33). Women in rural areas are reported to be particularly vulnerable (The Citizen 26 May 2008; World Bank 5 Mar. 2008), as the existing legal system is inaccessible to the majority of women located there (Tanzania n.d.).

A study conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2005 revealed that 41 percent of women in Dar es Salaam and 56 percent in the district of Mbeya who had been married or in a live-in relationship with a man, or who had had a regular sexual partner, had "ever experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of a partner" (WHO 2005, Sec. 3.1). In November 2007, The Guardian, a newspaper in Dar es Salaam, reported that domestic violence committed against women was increasing and that over 50 percent of women were beaten daily by their partners (23 Nov. 2007).

The MKUKUTA Status Report 2006 indicates that 60 percent of women believe that wife beating is acceptable as compared with 42 percent of men (Tanzania Dec. 2006, 33). The WHO study conducted in Dar es Salaam and Mbeya in 2005 revealed that 60 percent of victims had never sought help because they believed that spousal violence was either "normal" or not serious enough to require assistance (WHO 2005, Sec. 3.7). In its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007, the United States (US) Department of State adds that in Tanzania, "cultural, family, and social pressures" are factors in women's reluctance to report domestic abuse, and that police and other authorities seldom take action against perpetrators (11 Mar. 2008, Sec. 5).

Legislation and the Courts

The government of Tanzania has adopted several laws to enhance women's rights, including the Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, 1998 (SOSPA) (Tanzania 1 July 1998), which offers protection to women and children from sexual harassment and abuse (ibid. n.d.). However, several sources have pointed out that SOSPA does not specifically address marital rape (Kivulini n.d.a; Rutazaa 2005, 26; Equality Now July 1998), nor domestic violence (ibid.; Kivulini n.d.a; US 11 Mar. 2008, Sec. 5).

Although the Law of Marriage Act Number 5 of 1971 (LMA) prohibits the use of corporal punishment against a spouse (LHRC n.d.a; Equality Now July 1998), Equality Now, an organization that advocates for women's rights around the world (ibid. n.d.), notes that Tanzania's Penal Code does not make any corresponding provisions for punishing violators, thus failing to provide victims of domestic violence with an opportunity to obtain legal redress (ibid. July 1998). A statement on the Government of Tanzania's website mentions plans to redraft the LMA but does not give details (Tanzania n.d.).

On its website, the Government of Tanzania acknowledges the "discriminatory application of statutory laws" with respect to the provision of legal protection for women, as well as the inadequacy of protective mechanisms including "protection orders, baring orders and safety orders" (ibid.). Although the Constitution of Tanzania proclaims that "all persons are equal before the law and are entitled ... to protection and equality before the law" (ibid., Art. 13), in the report Tanzania Women and Access to Law – The Case of Kilimanjaro, author Aginatha Rutazaa notes that the inclusion of customary and religious law under statutory law diminishes women's chances of receiving equal treatment (Rutazaa 2005, 26).

Steps have been taken by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to address legal inequities through the allocation of a training grant to the Women's Judges Association in Tanzania from its Trust Fund to End Violence against Women (UN n.d). UNIFEM reports that a judgement has since been rendered that recognized gender-based violence in a case involving the division of marital property, thus deviating from long-held judicial attitudes toward marital privacy and male privilege in Tanzania (ibid. 8 Mar. 2007).

In 2005, the Government of Tanzania adopted the National Strategy for Growth and Reduction of Poverty (MKUKUTA), which includes eradicating domestic and sexual violence as ones of its main goals (Kivulini n.d.b). The strategy also includes a government commitment to "accelerate legislative processes to enable women to access legal mechanisms" (ibid.). In addition, on 24 May 2008, President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete signed onto UNIFEM's "Say NO to Violence against Women" campaign, indicating that combating violence against women is a priority for his government (UN 27 May 2008). In signing on, the President alluded to the inadequacy of existing legal mechanisms to protect women from violence, and declared that the government was ready to collaborate with development partners in revising legislation, and to "take whatever measures necessary to prevent and eliminate violence against women" (ibid.).

Protection and Support Services

The government has committed itself to establishing legal literacy and education campaigns to enhance awareness of woman's legal and human rights (Tanzania n.d.). The commitment includes teaching human rights in schools and in adult education programs (ibid.). In addition, the Tanzanian Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children is planning regional campaigns in cooperation with UNIFEM's "Say NO to Violence against Women" campaign (UN 27 May 2008). The development of an integrated national response to preventing domestic violence in partnership with the Commission on Human Rights for Good Governance, youth leaders and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has also been proposed as part of the government's National Action Plan (ibid.).

Legal aid clinics are available in Dar es Salaam; two are operated by the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), which also runs a regional office in Arusha (LHRC n.d.b). Legal assistance specific to women is offered by the Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA) (TAWLA 26 Feb. 2007) and the Women's Legal Aid Centre (WLAC) (WLAC n.d.). The WLAC also has an outreach program, which includes sixteen paralegal units in urban and rural centres (ibid.). In addition, the Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA), an association that raises awareness of women's issues through media advocacy, also runs a crisis centre in Dar es Salaam that provides legal aid and counselling services to domestic violence victims (TAMWA n.d.).

Regionally based organizations that address domestic violence in Tanzania include the Kivulini Women's Rights Organization (Kivulini), a registered NGO based in Mwanza (Kivulini n.d.c). Kivulini has created two programs in the Ilemela and Nyamagana districts (Kivulini n.d.d). One program strives to raise awareness of and prevent violence against women and girls, and the other program is directed toward advocating and lobbying for improved laws, policies and structural reforms (ibid.). Kivulini has also established a capacity building program aimed at violence prevention through training in the Lake Region and Singida (ibid.).

The Kilimanjaro Women Information Exchange and Consultancy Organization (KWIECO) provides information and resources for women in the Kilimanjaro region (KWIECO n.d.a). KWIECO runs five programs which operate from the grassroots to the national level, and include lobby and advocacy work, legal counseling, and the provision of child legal services, human rights and gender education, and litigation and documentation (ibid.; ibid. n.d.b). Another organization, the Pastoral Women's Council, assists Maasai women with rights issues and basic livelihood needs (African Initiatives n.d.).

Information on the existence of women's shelters or safe houses for victims of domestic violence could not be found among sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


African Initiatives. N.d. "Women's Rights: The Key to Reducing Poverty." [Accessed 16 May 2008]

Amnesty International (AI). 2008. "United Republic of Tanzania." Amnesty International Report 2008. [Accessed 28 May 2008]

The Citizen [Dar es Salaam]. 26 May 2008. "Drive Must Not Fail." ( [Accessed 26 May 2008]

Equality Now. July 1998. "United Republic of Tanzania." (Submission to the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee, 63rd Session). [Accessed 20 May 2008]
_____. N.d. "Equality Now." [Accessed 8 May 2008]

The Guardian [Dar es Salaam]. 23 November 2007. Lusekelo Philemon. "Rise in Women's Incomes has Perpetuated Soaring Domestic Violence – WiLDAF." (IPPmedia) [Accessed 28 May 2008]

Kilimanjaro Women Information Exchange and Consultancy Organization (KWIECO). N.d.a. "Welcome to Home of the Kilimanjaro Women Information Exchange and Consultancy Organization (KWIECO)." [Accessed 2 June 2008]
_____. N.d.b. "Programs." [Accessed 2 June 2008]

Kivulini. N.d.a. "Implementation of Policy and Law." [Accessed 20 May 2008]
_____. N.d.b. "Policy Context and Challenges." [Accesed 27 May 2008]
_____. N.d.c. "What is Kivulini?" [Accessed 2 June 2008]
_____. N.d.d. "Kivulin is Comprised of the Following Programs:-" [Accessed 20 May 2008]

Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC). N.d.a. Helen Kijo-Bisimba. Major Laws Relating to Women's Lives. [Accessed 26 May 2008]
_____. N.d.b. Legal and Human Rights Centre." [Accessed 2 June 2008]

Rutazaa, Aginatha. 2005. Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, Duke University (Durham, NC). Tanzania Women and Access to Law – The Case of Kilimanjaro. [Accessed 26 May 2008]

Tanzania. December 2006. Status Report 2006: Progress Towards the Goals for Growth, Social Well-being and Governance in Tanzania. [Accessed 16 May 2008]
_____. 1 July 1998. The Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act, 1998. [Accessed 13 June 2008]
_____. 30 Apr. 1998. The Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, 1977. [26 May 2008]
_____. N.d. "Gender: Legal Capacity." [Accessed 20 May 2008]

Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA). N.d. "Activities." [Accessed 30 May 2008]

Tanzania Women Lawyers Association (TAWLA). 26 February 2007. "Welcome to TAWLA." [Accessed 2 June 2008]

United Nations (UN). 27 May 2008. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). "Tanzanian President Signs UNIFEM's Say NO to Violence Against Women Campaign." [Accessed 8 May 2008]
_____. 8 March 2007. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). "Southern Africa: Removing Gender Biases from Judicial Processes." [Accessed 20 May 2008]
_____. N.d. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). "Progress for Women is Progress for All." [Accessed 20 May 2008]

United States (US). 11 March 2008. Department of State. "Tanzania." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007. [Accessed 16 May 2008]

Women's Legal Aid Centre (WLAC). N.d. "Legal Aid Services." [Accessed 2 June 2008]

World Bank. 5 March 2008. "Women Worldwide Remain Victims of Domestic Violence." [Accessed 28 Mar. 2008]

World Health Organization (WHO). 2005. "United Republic of Tanzania." WHO Multi-country Study on Women's Health and Domestic Violence Against Women. [Accessed 16 May 2008]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: The UNIFEM Regional Office for East and Horn of Africa and the Kivulini Women's Rights Organization did not respond to requests for information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sources, including: Communication Initiative (CI), Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice, Gender and Media Southern Africa – Tanzania Network (GEMSAT), Population Reference Bureau (PRB), Tanzania Gender Networking Programme (TGNP), United Kingdom (UK).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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