We have let down the girl-child

Two recent developments in Tanzania have led to an international outcry.

One is the presidential pardon of two men who were convicted of raping children and the other a call by Regional Commissioner John Mongella for arrest of pregnant schoolgirls.

President John Magufuli pardoned singer Nguza Viking, also known as Babu Seya, and his son Johnson Nguza, known as Papii Kocha, on Saturday for raping 10 primary schoolgirls, aged between six and eight, in 2003.

According to the Citizen daily, Mongella said pregnant girls should be arraigned before a court to testify against the culprits, thereby preventing others from engaging in sexual activities.

He argued that pupils were underperforming in the national primary school and abandoning examination due to pregnancy.

In the two incidences, sexual violence victims were being punished as perpetrators walked free.

Were raped

I don’t want to imagine what is going on in the minds of those children who were raped by the duo.

Though they are no longer children, the scar remains. I wonder how their parents were feeling wherever they were.

And in the case of the pregnant schoolgirls, you can imagine innocent children who could probably be victims of rape, being rounded up and taken to cells and dragged to court. The trauma they might get remains for a life time.

Such events might also mean that abused girls and women would have nowhere else to run to for protection as their abusers seem to have an upper hand.

If we are not careful, we might promote widespread sexual violence against women and girls by these developments.

Teenage mothers

Earlier in the year, a presidential directive banned pregnant girls and teenage mothers from attending government schools.

It means, once pregnant, you are condemned to a life of misery and poverty without being given a second chance to try and achieve your educational goals.

Access to education is a human right and should not be denied as victims seek to break from the shackles of poverty.

I know there were many women and children who were horrified at these developments. However, it was still not too late to reverse these decisions and make Tanzania a safer place for women and children.

Punitive attitude

Back to the two rapists; why punish our young girls and children by letting their tormentors walk free? What does that say of us as a society?

I know there are some Rhumba lovers who celebrated the duo's release from prison, but what if one of the children who were abused was your relative? Would you be celebrating?

Violence against women and children should be taken lightly. Children are the future generation and punitive attitude towards them is a violation against their rights.

I still believe we can do better as a society who believes in equal rights for everyone.

I know there is political will to make every citizen feel valued.

Twitter@JanetOtieno

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