Zanzibar grapples to protect children from abuse

The United Nations Children Fund is working with the Zanzibar government to eliminate child abuse in the rich tourist island in the Indian Ocean coast.

Rich in beach tourism, Zanzibar has been rated among African destinations haunted by “sexcapades” from Europe, Africa and South East Asia.The Island had in recent years reported an increase on children abuse in different forms, from family to institutional levels.

Tourist hotels are mentioned among institutions known for gearing sexual and child abuse in the island.

Zanzibar government is now looking for financial and technical support from United Nations agencies and other donors to help the island fight gender-based and child abuse violence rampant in the island.

Zanzibar Minister for Labour, Women and Children Maudline Castico recently launched a five- year National Action Plan looking to end rampant abuse to children and women in the island.

Through support from UN agencies, the Zanzibar government is looking to implement a five-year plan aimed to protect children the island and said his semi-autonomous government will ensure that women and children are highly protected from gender and child violence. The program will cost about a US$ 20 million.

The UN agencies had raised a concern over rampant child abuse where child abuse affects two out of three children born in the island. The UN report says that 6 out 10 boys and 7 out of 10 girls had experienced violence through different forms in the island.

UN says that child abuse in Zanzibar has been connected with abuse and violence against women where one (1) out of nine (9) women have been sexually abused.

Zanzibar President Dr. Ali Mohammed Shein said through a statement that his government will work out to end violence against children and women by imposing laws and legislations leading to tough punishment against violence perpetrators.

“Violence is a daily reality for significant numbers of women and children in Zanzibar. The immediate and long term social, health and economic consequences of violence against women and children represent a key challenge to national development”, Dr. Shein said in the statement.

United Nations Children Fund (Unicef) Representative in Tanzania Ms. Manisa Zaman said culture of silence in Zanzibar has been a cause for child abuse where parents kept silent when their children fall victims to torture and physical assaults.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) had underlined Global Code of Ethics for Tourism, aimed to end exploitation of human beings in any form, especially when applied to children.

“We cannot build the responsible and sustainable tourism sector that we seek without protecting the most vulnerable in our societies. To do so we need effective tools and a global commitment,” said UNWTO Secretary-General, Dr Taleb Rifai in July during a meeting which discussed tourism ethics.

“Sexual exploitation in travel and tourism has a child’s face. No country is untouched by this phenomenon and no child is immune,” Dr. Rifai said.

“We cannot build the responsible and sustainable tourism sector that we seek without protecting the most vulnerable in our societies. To do so we need effective tools and a global commitment,” he noted.

The fight against Child Exploitation in tourism is one of the priorities of UNWTO who has been leading since 20 years the World Tourism Network on Child Protection.

UNWTO said that the rise of the Internet and informal operators as well as greater access to international travel have expanded ‘demand’ and heightened the dangers for children. At the same time, grinding poverty and lack of education combined with the continued neglect of child protection systems, all have fuelled children abuse.

In the context of the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the International Year aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute to all the 17 SDGs.
Zanzibar is a popular sex tourism destination for European tourists, attracting girls from poor families to engage themselves in sex business. The semi-autonomous island has been dominated by sex workers operating under top secrecy.
The island depends tourism as its main economic artery, banking on its pristine beaches.

In his message to mark the 2017 World Tourism Day, Dr. Rifai said, “Whenever you travel, wherever you travel, remember to respect nature, respect culture and respect your host”.