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Zanzibar and Child Molestation. Shame On Us!

We, Zanzibaris, are people who take pride in our heritage and identity. Even after more than half a century of being annexed to a giant Tanganyika and as tiny as our country is, we are still identifying ourselves with Zanzibariness. And it is not about colour of our skins, nor the origins of our ancentry. No. It is beyond all that separate others.

As it happens to any other people who are so attached to their glory, we, too, tend to be selective in describing what belongs to us and what does not. We choose the best values and admit and associate with them and either leave or ignore the worst things by simply pretending them to be not part of us.

I am a Zanzibari, first and foremost. I am also proud of my identity and all that good things associated with it – generosity, simplicity, humanity, and perseverance. However, I do not want to turn my back to the bitter realities that we are living with. I want to look them face to face. The monsters in our midst. I do want to admit that we, as people, are having problems of our own – social, economic, political, legal, and, the worst of all, we do have a moral problem.

No matter how far we pretend to disown these problems, as many others might do, they are still there and they are ours. They do exist even if we say they do not represent what we really are and what we are expected to be.

Today, I am referring to the existing vice amongst our families… Child molestation. Hardly a week is gone without hearing a child has been molested somewhere either in Unguja or Pemba. This is happening everywhere – in towns and villages, in homes and public places, like schools and madrassas. The stories of our innocent children being raped by adults are becoming common talks.

Once, I visited a friend of mine who told me how his cousin was found by her step mother already “destroyed” after years of being molested by their respected neighbour. It turned out that the wife of the monster was full aware of the happenings and had been defending her husband ever since. Even when the family started to take some legal measures, the man was able to escape and hide at his in-laws’ place. The poor girl was made to reach puberty before her age!

Of late, I was told a story of a three year old girl in Wete, Pemba, who was taken from her home, raped and then left at their front door in the night. Other story involved an uncle who was regularly raping his own niece whom was entrusted to him by his sister. Other stories involve boys up to four years old who have already been raped several times.

There are yet many untold stories which end up silenced for many years. The cases that are reported to official apparatuses are fewer than those go unreported. Our children are not safe in our own hands. And this is something I feel deeply ashamed of. How a society so well mannered becomes such ruthless and irresponsible!?

Do I mean that the whole Zanzibari society is rotten from head to its toe? No. But I really mean that the society is responsible for the crime against our children because, as a people, we do not take a collective action against the criminals. We hide them. We are afraid of hurting their feelings but we are ready to let the lives of our children broken into unammendable pieces.

I am not trying to be fallacious by presenting a hasty generalisation. I mean, not every adult in Zanzibar is a potential pedophile. Neither every child is a victim of sexual violence. But I want to be as open as possible. Our generation is at risk from our own hands. In a society where stories of child molestation have become so common, where parents are afraid when their kids have gone to play outside their compounds, where even schools and madrassas are to be feared, the calamity is but so clear. We are in a bad shape!

While we are taking pride of our social norms based on humanity teachings, we have to be ashamed of for not using those teachings to straighten our society that is going astray. The way the current generation is being destroyed from within, it sends fellas that the future is dark. Very dark!

Photo Credit: MICHELLY ODA/G1

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