Dar es Salaam. At least 4,148 girls were saved from undergoing female genital mutilation (FGM) in Serengeti District in Mara Region in 2016. According to a recent Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) report, cases of FGM in the country have dropped by 5 per cent.
Launched on Wednesday, the report shows that the girls saved from undergoing FGM were equivalent to 74 per cent of 5,621 girls planned for it in the year and 1,473 girls did undergo FGM.
FGM practice violates girls and women’s rights that is why it is a criminal offence under Tanzania’s legislation. Launching the report, LHRC researcher Paul Mikongoti said the girls were saved following collective efforts by the police, the government and other stakeholders, who launched special a campaign against FGM and saw 32 people arrested and charged in the district. “Although the government in 2016 reported a 5 per cent decrease in FGM cases, the situation could be different as FGM is done in secrecy,” he said.
He noted that girls in Serengeti, Tarime and Rorya districts in Mara Region continued undergoing FGM although the report indicated that Tanzania was on the right track in reducing the incidence and protecting girls from FGM.
According to the LHRC report, 82 per cent of women interviewed in the 2015/16 Tanzania Demographic Survey believe that FGM is against their religion and 84 per cent others wished the practice to be discontinued.
Therefore, human rights activists recommend that the police and courts of law should speed up investigation and prosecution of people involved in violence against children, including the FGM.
“Civil society organisations and the Social Welfare Department within local governments should increase public awareness on violence against children and encourage community members to report such cases to the relevant authorities to arrest perpetrators and bring them to justice,” reads part of the report. FGM is a big problem in Africa, with the World Health Organisation estimating that three million undergo it annually. Tanzania has the prevalence of 15 per cent from 2004 to mid-2015.
Meanwhile, the report cites child pregnancy and marriage as main contributory factors in school dropouts for girl students. A LHRC biannual human rights report shows that 2 out of 5 girls are forced into marriage before attaining the age stipulated in the Marriage Act of 1971.
The report cites a recent report by the UN Population Fund, which ranks Tanzania the first in East Africa on child pregnancy prevalence and the third in Africa.