Tanzanian authorities say they have arrested five schoolgirls so that they can help with information on the men who impregnated them.
The girls aged between 16 and 19 were arrested as part of a crackdown on child pregnancies.
The District Commissioner Sebastian Waryuba said that the schoolgirls were arrested last week. They were later released on bail. He says police seek to question two other schoolgirls.
“We have managed to arrest the girls and their parents but unfortunately those who impregnated the girls have escaped and we are looking for them,” he said.
Rights groups have slammed the girls’ arrest, insisting that the men who impregnated them should have been arrested instead. The girls were later released on bail and authorities are still searching for the men involved
“Prosecuting girls who are victims of sexual exploitation and violence, whilst allowing adult perpetrators to go free, sends out the wrong message,” said Christa Stewart, a lawyer who works with charity Equality Now.
“In a misguided attempt to prove that they take sexual violence seriously, the Tanzanian government is infringing on the human rights of adolescent girls and this is unacceptable. Arresting victims is never the solution.”
The East African nation sentences those who impregnate schoolgirls to at least 30 years in prison. The penalties are intended to discourage early marriages and teenage pregnancies that lead to school dropouts.
But human rights groups have condemned authorities for implementing policies that don’t allow schoolgirls to return to class after pregnancies.
Human Rights Watch says many girls regularly experience sexual harassment and exploitation by teachers in schools and that schools lack adequate protection and confidential reporting mechanisms.