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Tanzania: Law on Child Rights Enacted in Zanzibar

(Sept. 1, 2011) On August 25, 2011, Dr. Ali Mohamed Shein, the President of Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous island region in the United Republic of Tanzania, signed into law a comprehensive children's rights law. (Shane Keenan, Children's Act Provides New Tools for Protecting Child Rights in Zamzibar [sic], UNICEF (Aug. 25, 2011).) The Act is said to include provisions on custody, foster parentage, and guardianship, as well as on the roles and responsibilities of professionals and institutions in providing services for children and dealing with children in need of care and protection. (Id.)

This measure follows the enactment of a comprehensive child rights law by the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania: the Law of the Child Act, 2009 (Act No. 21 of 2009, 90 ACT SUPPLEMENT TO THE GAZETTE OF THE REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA, No. 52 (Dec. 25, 2009), Parliament of Tanzania website (official source)). This Act implemented several obligations under regional and international conventions on the rights of the child to which Tanzania is party, including the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child; the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child; the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution, and Child Pornography; and the Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. (Save The Children, CAPTURING CHILDREN'S VIEWS ON THE CHILDREN'S BILL 2010: THE NATIONAL CHILD CONSULTATION PROGRAMME IN ZANZIBAR 9 (Aug. 2010).) It also consolidated rights and obligations pertaining to children that were previously covered by the Affiliation Act, the Adoption Act, the Day Care Centers Act, the Children and Young Persons Act; and the Children Home (Regulation) Act, all of which were repealed by the 2009 Act. (The Law of the Child Act, § 160.)

The arrangement between mainland Tanzania and the island of Zanzibar, one akin to a federal arrangement, requires that the two regions enact separate laws on children's issues. The Tanzanian Constitution created a union of two jurisdictions with their own branches of government; the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and the Revolutionary Government of Tanzania Zanzibar. (Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania, § 4 (1977), Official Online Gateway of the United Republic of Tanzania (last visited Aug. 29, 2011) (official source).) It establishes a list of “union matters,” such as immigration and foreign policy, similar to the federal matters of the United States; the legislative jurisdiction on these matters is exclusively reserved to the Government of the United Republic and laws issued accordingly are applicable throughout Tanzania. (Id.) All other matters, those that are not stipulated as “union matters,” are known as “non-union” matters and the Government of Zanzibar enjoys exclusive legislative jurisdiction over these topics within the island territory. (Id.)