Tanzania is a united republic formed from mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar, in 1977. The constitution defines Tanzania as a “democratic and… secular” state. (Zanzibar has its own constitution, courts and legislature within the united republic’s constitution.)

Severe Discrimination
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

In principle, the constitution protects freedom of thought and expression; freedom of conscience, faith and choice in matters of religion; and freedom of association and assembly. However, these provisions of the constitution are not upheld in practice.

The present constitution includes a Commission for Human Rights and Good Governance (CHRAGG). This body is intended to be an independent government department, established as the national focal point institution for the promotion and protection of human rights and duties as well as good governance in Tanzania. But local Human Rights groups question both CHRAGG’s independence and its capacity to deliver.

Family, community and society

Tanzania is beset by numerous indicators of social dysfunction connected to religious extremism. There have been reports of acid attacks by Islamists in Zanzibar, and there is concern over harassment of journalists. Homosexuality is a socially taboo topic, and same-sex sexual acts are crimes punishable by the state.

Medical practitioners in the country have expressed their concern on increasing trends where religious sects are interfering in their profession that is causing delays in the treatment of patients.

“The Tanzania Charitable Hospitals Trust Fund Director General, Dr Jerome Mkiramweni said that as a medical practitioner he was aware of the role religion and faith plays in building a personʼs personality, but the current trends were going too far.”

— Tanzania Daily News Online, December 2013

The Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) notes extra-judicial killings by Tanzanian state officials, mob violence (in part against so-called witches) and incitement to violence by the Prime Minister of Tanzania – as grave violations of the right to life. Over 1,600 people were killed in Tanzania in 2013. Violence against women and children is also cited as a major cause for concern. Some of the deaths and violence were attributable to clashes between Muslims and Christians.

“Tanzania arrests 23 over killing of seven ‘witches’. A Tanzanian human rights group estimates that 500 suspected witches are killed in Tanzania annually.”

Religious courts

There are significant differences in the approach to religious courts between mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar. After independence, Tanzania mainland embarked on the process of unification of personal laws with a view of having a unified law to all her citizens irrespective of their religious inclinations. The unification process resulted in the application of the Law of Marriage Act of 1971. However, Kadhi’s courts are part of the national judicial system of Zanzibar and Islamic law is predominant in matters of personal status. Many Muslims of Zanzibar regard attempts by mainlanders to reform some aspects of the judicial system as an attack on Zanzibar’s legislative autonomy.

Highlighted cases

One Eva Abdulla was charged with blasphemy (said to have urinated on the Koran) and in July 2012 was sentenced to 2 years imprisonment. On appeal, January 2013, Abdulla was found not guilty and released.