Tanzania Journal of Health Research

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Factors associated with child sexual abuse in Tanzania: a qualitative study

Mangi J. Ezekiel, Felix Kisanga, Idda H. Mosha, Amani Anaeli, Switbert R. Kamazima, Rose Mpembeni, Eustace P. Muhondwa


Background: Child sexual abuse (CSA) is one of the most pervasive occurrences which are reported all over the world. It often goes unnoticed and undocumented due to surrounding taboos; its sensitivity in nature and affects the less powerful population. Anecdote information is available on the nature and extent of sexual abuse among children in Tanzania. The aim of this study was to explore factors, forms, context of abuse and perpetrators of child sex abuse in selected regions of Tanzania.

Methods: Key informant interviews were conducted among adults including parents of the victims to explore factors associated with sexual abuse of children under 10 years old in Tanzania. The interview guide centred on factors for child sexual abuse, the type of perpetrators and the context into which these abuses take place.

Results: There were incidences of child sexual abuse in Tanzania and the major forms were anal and vaginal penetration, and the most affected were girls. The abuses were rarely reported due to shame and embarrassment faced by the affected children and parents. The causes of child sexual abuse were poverty, ambitions and moral degradation, myths and beliefs, urbanization, foreign culture and poor parental care. Incidents of CSA were reported to occur in perpetrators’ homes and in semi-finished housing structures, madrassa and recreational venues where children can freely access entertainment by watching movies. These acts were committed by people in position of power, close relationship and trusted by the children. Contexts where child sexual abuses occur included overcrowded living spaces and social activities that go on late into the night.

Conclusion: We recommend for strengthened interventions at different levels within the society to address the root causes and different contexts in which child sex abuse occurs. Increased awareness of the root causes should go hand in hand with measures to encourage parents and survivors to report incidents to relevant authorities timely as they occur.

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