HRW urges Tanzania to respect free speech


An international rights group urged the Tanzanian government to immediately stop threatening civil society groups for helping pregnant girls finish their education.

"All civil society groups should be allowed to operate without fear of reprisals for their research, advocacy, programming, and essential services," Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday in a statement signed by 18 other non-governmental organizations.

The statement came after Tanzania Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba threatened to deregister organizations that challenge the president's ban on schooling for pregnant girls and teen mothers.

He also threatened to prosecute or deport anyone working to protect rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people.

The government estimates that 30 out of every 100 girls dropped out of school due to pregnancy in 2015.

Tanzanian President John Magufuli said recently that no pregnant girl will be allowed to return to school after giving birth, urging young mothers to opt for vocational training or become entrepreneurs.

The president's comment, however, triggered international condemnation with campaigners urging him to withdraw it.

"Tanzania's president and other top officials should be focusing on how to build the country by helping everyone complete their education and ending discrimination," said Elin Martinez, children's rights researcher at HRW.

The group said, the recent statements by Magufuli and Nchemba contradict longstanding efforts by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and civil society organizations to develop re-entry guidelines to ensure that girls can go back to school after pregnancy.

The organization urged the Tanzanian government to take immediate measures to ensure the continued enrollment of girls, who become pregnant, and to support and assist girls in their re-enrollment and continuation of education in public schools.

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