Authorities in Mwanza, Tanzania have reportedly issued orders for all pregnant teenagers in the region to be arrested and charged to court.
Regional Commissioner John Mongella recently announced that the new policy is aimed at preventing other girls from engaging in sexual activities, given that pregnant girls will be arraigned before a court to testify against the culprits.
Speaking during a meeting with education stakeholders, on Monday, Dec. 11, Mongella lamented that pregnant teenagers have a tendency not to divulge those responsible for their pregnancies.
“There have been a tendency of pregnant schoolgirls not to mention the name of a person who impregnated them. This is a challenge when one is required to testify in court,” Mongella said.
Directors and district commissioners in the Mwanza region have been ordered to locate all pregnant schoolgirls and take them to court.
The educational officer in the region, Michael Lugola also lamented pupil’s poor performances in the national primary school leaving examination due to pregnancy.
According to Lugola, statistics reveal that in 2017 alone, 33 pupils have dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancy.
This is coming after a move by Tanzanian President John Magufuli in June, where he upheld a 2002 law that bans girls from returning to school after giving birth. He also called for men who impregnated schoolgirls to be imprisoned for 30 years
Tanzania’s ban on pregnant girls attending state primary and secondary schools dates back to 1961, when the country secured its independence from Britain, though it does not extend to private schools.
According to a 2013 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), more than 55,000 Tanzanian schoolgirls have been expelled from school over the last decade for being pregnant.
There are arguments, however, that these policies are infringements against the human rights of the girls.
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President Magufili recently came under heavy criticism after he announced that a father and son convicted of raping multiple young girls would be freed from prison after serving 13 years of their life sentences.
East African singer, Nguza Viking and his son, Johnson Nguza were released immediately alongside 1,828 other inmates for good behavior. An additional 6,329 other inmates will have their sentences reduced, Magufuli said.
The announcement came during the 56th independence anniversary, and while the crowd allegedly cheered, children’s rights activists were outraged at the news.
Nuguza, known as “Babu Seya,” is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo but has lived in Tanzania for several years. The popular African singer and his son, who performs under the stage name “Papii Kocha,” were arrested in October 2003, on 10 counts of rape and 11 counts of sodomy for an apparent gang rape of girls between the ages of six and eight years old who attended the Mashujaa Primary School in Dar es Salam.
The men pleaded not guilty to the charges, and were convicted in 2003. In 2013, a Tanzanian upheld the conviction, making a presidential pardon Nguzua and Viking’s last shot at being released.
“Horrified but unsurprised” by Magufuli’s decision, Kate McAlpine, the director of Community for Children Rights, said the President’s action shows a “lack of understanding about violence against children.”
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McAlpine also pointed out that in Tanzania, it’s “extremely rare for child rape cases” to be prosecuted. She added the Magufuli seems to have a “punitive attitude towards young children,” and referenced his earlier comments stating that pregnant teenagers should not be allowed to continue their education.