In Brief

Tanzania: men abandon wives who voted in elections

Activists warn that nearly 50 women have been divorced in Zanzibar in a 'significant threat to democracy'

Dozens of women in Zanzibar have been divorced or abandoned by their husbands after voting in Tanzania's recent elections.

Activists from the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association (Zafela) and Tanzania Media Women Association (Tamwa) also confirmed that some women had not taken part in the poll due to threats from their husbands.

Mzuri Issa, the coordinator of Tamwa in the semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago, said 47 women were divorced after not following their husband's wishes, Reuters reports.

The women cast their ballots in the general election in October, in which the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party faced it first serious electoral challenge in decades.

Many of the women who were abandoned said they had voted for the incumbent party, while their husbands had favoured the opposition coalition known as Ukawa.

"I thought it was just normal and free in a democracy to differ in politics," one woman told the Tanzanian Daily News. "But unfortunately, my husband was adamant to the end and decided to divorce me. He has even decided not to bring basic needs to our young children."

Zafela's Saada Salum Issa has warned that the divorces were "really affecting democracy in the island as women's free choice is being compromised by their spouses' dictation."  

However, there is very little the women are able to do to challenge the men's actions in Zanzibar, where 99 per cent of the population is Muslim, reports the BBC's Aboubakar Famou.

The nationwide elections were declared largely free and fair on the Tanzanian mainland, but voting was suspended in Zanzibar, which has its own president and parliament, due to outbreaks of violence and "gross violations".

A fresh presidential vote is due to be held in January or February next year.

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