The availability of state protection to a Muslim woman who has committed adultery, and has given birth to a child as a result [TZA42309.E]

Although "[c]ustomary and statutory law in both civil and criminal matters governs Christians on the mainland and the Zanzibar archipelago" of Tanzania, Muslims may invoke Islamic law in "family matters such as marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance" (International Religious Freedom Report 2002 7 Oct. 2002). There is a law in Zanzibar that is commonly known as the "'spinster act'" which provides that "unmarried Muslim women under the age of 21 who become pregnant are subject to two years' imprisonment, and a man found guilty of making a woman who is not his wife pregnant can be imprisoned for five years" (ibid.). According to the International Religious Freedom Report 2002, "[i]n the past, Zanzibari women have successfully had these convictions dropped or overturned in the Zanzibari courts [and] [n]o men have been tried under this law" (ibid.).

Additional information on state protection available to a Muslim woman who has committed adultery, and has given birth to a child as a result, could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


International Religious Freedom Report 2002. 7 October 2002. United States Department of State. Washington, D.C. [Accessed 8 Jan. 2004]

Additional Sources Consulted

Attempts to obtain the contact information for a lawyer, who is also the executive director of Sahiba Sisters Foundation in Tanzania, proved unsuccessful.

IRB Databases

The Tanzania Media Women's Association (TAMWA), in Dar es Salaam, did not respond to a letter requesting information.


Internet sites, including:

Africa Online

All Africa

Amnesty International (AI)

Anisha Times


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2002

European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI)

Freedom in the World 2003

Human Rights Internet (HRI)

Human Rights Watch (HRW)

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR)


United Nations, Division for the Advancement of Women

The United Republic of Tanzania, National Website

U.S. Committee for Refugees (USCR)

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