TOMORROW Tanzania joins other nations across the world to celebrate Zero Discrimination Day. It is a day dedicated to promote every person’s right to live with dignity in all aspects.
To ensure citizens are treated equally, the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania provides that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to protection and equality before the law.
It further provides that no law enacted by any authority in the United Republic shall make any provision that is discriminatory either of itself or in its effect and that no person shall be discriminated against by any person or any authority acting under any law or in the discharge of the functions or business of any state office. This gives the rationale for celebrating Zero Discrimination Day in Tanzania.
The UN first celebrated Zero Discrimination Day on March 1, 2014, after UNAIDS, a UN programme on human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), launched its Zero Discrimination Campaign on World AIDS Day in December 2013. Since then the day has been celebrated each year on March 1.
We know how much the government and stakeholders have been promoting a culture of non-discrimination in the country so that all Tanzanians see each other as equal in dignity and are treated equally in the provision and access of social services.
In the past persons with albinism were discriminated against. Although they may still be stigmatised in some cases, public awareness has helped society to regard persons with albinism as having equal rights as any other person.
There was also discrimination against people living with HIV/Aids, who were stigmatised because they were regarded as promiscuous. But almost all this has gone for any person may contract HIV/Aids even if the person is not promiscuous.
We have also persons who live with disabilities. They too were being discriminated against and even in some families there were incidents where they were hid in a house for years because of their disabilities.
Women too because of patriarchy have been discriminated against simply because they are women. Despite public awareness on gender equality not all citizens believe men and women are equal in dignity.
There is a tendency to erroneously think or believe that men or boys are superior to women or girls respectively or that women or girls are inferior to men or boys respectively.
According to UN, globally, at least one in three women and girls have experienced violence in their lives, with adolescent girls experiencing higher rates of intimate partner violence than adult women overall.
This figure, the UN suggests, hides deep disparities, with more than 50 per cent of women in some countries reporting violence just in the past 12 months.
Another group which can easily be discriminated against is that of older persons. These are people who have worked many years in various roles and among them are our own parents, but when they age we tend to disregard them and treat them as unproductive because they are retired and have no direct influence on us.
Here we may include children as well, who even if they are still small we never treat them as passengers who deserve to have a seat in commuter buses and in other areas. The list is inexhaustible!
It suffices to say, as we celebrate Zero Discrimination Day tomorrow we have all those examples of discrimination in the background and that is why we think of reminding each other that we were born equal in dignity and entitlements and that, differences are not the basis of discrimination, but just unity in diversity.