Farmlands, or agricultural landscapes, captures the interest of a number of researchers based at the Department of Human Geography, Stockholm University. On this blog we share information about research findings, activities, events and comments related to our work.

Our interest in farmlands has three roots: farming, landscape and society.
Farming as a practice, including farmers knowledge and labour investments
Landscape as society-nature relations, congealed history, and as space and place
Society as a short form for institutions, gender relations, political economy and scientific relevance

Most Welcome to FarmLandS!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A gender perspective on the upcoming Tanzanian constitution in light of the recent legislative developments in Kenya

Tanzania is to have a new constitution by the end of the year, President Kikwet stated recently. The official enactment was originally planned for the end of this month. The new constitution is set to limit the power of the central government (reducing its areas of responsibility from 22 to 7; the number of ministers to 15; the MPs from 300 to 75) and to move to a three-tier federal government. This will be composed by Tanganyika, the federal government and Zanzibar, trying to put to an end the Zanzabari claim that the central government is caring most for the interests of the mainland.

The unveiling of the new constitution comes at the end of a two years constituent process during which the Constitutional Review Commission has toured the country and sat with interests groups. Among which women´s groups. The most apparent gain for women with this new piece of law is the 50% guarantee of parliament representation as opposed to the current 30%. Yet, there is no consideration on the same quota to applied in presidential appointments. As in the international debate, the idea of quota based on gender has been widely contested both by the general Tanzanian men public and most notoriously by the Charles Kitima, the vice chancellor of Saint Augustine University, who claimed such quota would be unnecessarily costly and that qualification should override gender in appointing officials. This last statement could be widely agreed upon whether Tanzanian women would have equal access to qualifying education as men have, but in the current situation women are starting the race from the back row.

Accordingly, Tanzanian women´s organization have been critical about the upcoming constitution for several reasons. First, they say that the term "person" should be defined in the constitution as it is commonly interpreted as meaning only men, which is the case in the current constitution which reads i.e. "every person is entitled to respect and protection of HIS person". Secondly, art. 46 on the rights of women currently states that women are free to participate in politics and governance, but it does not assert the right to be protected from marginalization and oppression or the right to equal pay, which is stated in the Ugandan and Zimbabwan constitutions, for instance. Finally, the text is also missing references to a minimum age for child marriage, which is an ever worrying topic in Tanzania. World Bank data shows that 22.8 % of girls aged 15 to 19 in Tanzania had children or were pregnant in 2010 and that Tanzania has the highest adolescent fertility rate in the world (129). These two facts are directly linked with early marriage and a high school dropout rate.

As for the Kenyan constitution, which entered into force in 2010, women in Tanzania will be given equal inheritance rights and access to land and property during marriage, after the termination of marriage or the death of their husband. The battle for equal land rights was fought by the Kenyan Federation of Women Lawyers during the constituent process. Nevertheless, such provision should stop the countless cases of widows who are taken away their land, but it does not necessarily ensure that in case of divorce women are recognized any right. In fact, as stated in the Kenyan constitution, litigation should be resolved by "local community initiatives", which are often composed by village elders who tend to go with the traditional norms that land should not be given to women.

Following the traditional norms is also what the Kenyan parliament is aiming at with the bill passed last month giving leeway to polygamy. The text of the bill recites that a man is allowed to take as many women as he can support. No reference is made to a prior agreement with the first wife, if there has ever been one. This bill, who is to be signed by President Kenyatta to enter into force, has sparkled a great divisive debate in Kenya, which prided itself on a more gender equal constitution. Hopefully, lawmakers and women organizations in Tanzania will make sure that the new constitution results in a tangible advancement of women´s condition and will not suffer any future step-back as in Kenya.

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