Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Social sciences

Publication Details

Submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy to Technological University Dublin, March 2017.


There are no prevalence data for childhood sexual abuse among Tanzanian university students. This investigation addressed this paucity. The nature of sexual abuse and the contextual issues exacerbating the problem of CSA were explored. The research questions explored were as follows: 1. At what rate do university students in Tanzania report experiences of child sexual abuse? 2. What is the nature of child sexual abuse in Tanzania? 3. Who perpetrates child sexual abuse in Tanzania? 4. What are the effects/consequences of child sexual abuse in Tanzania? 5. What are the causes of child sexual abuse in Tanzania? An ecological framework will be employed in this research. An ecological prism is useful for investigating CSA in Tanzania because it recognises that individuals are inseparable from the context in which they live and that this context has significant influences on them.

Participants (N= 487) from a university in Tanzania completed a questionnaire, which assessed abusive childhood sexual experiences, gathering information about age of victim, duration of abuse, perpetrators, amount of force or persuasion involved, and potential causes of child sexual abuse. A number of individuals were also interviewed about their experiences. Two focus groups and a review of case files also added to the research. The overall prevalence rate for child sexual abuse was 27.7%, with rates being higher for females than for males. The average age of the victim when abuse occurred was 13.8 years. Perpetrators were generally unidentified by respondents; nonetheless, a surprisingly high proportion of female perpetrators was noted. Poverty was the primary explanation given for child sexual abuse. Contextual factors exacerbating the problem of CSA were identified such as the patriarchal nature of society, the transactional nature of sexual relations, the low status of children, and the avoidance of HIV. The findings of this study suggest that child sexual abuse exists in Tanzania at similar levels to those reported throughout the world and that some of this abuse is a product of a need for economic support and survival. It is suggested that poverty feeds the “sugar daddy/mammy” phenomenon, which aggravates the problem of CSA. The avoidance of HIV is another potential factor fueling the sexual abuse of children in the region. It is argued that CSA is occuring in a patriarchial cultural context, making women and children particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse. A strong incest taboo and the higher rates of sexual abuse of boys need further investigation in the Tanzanian context. This thesis has particular relevance to students, researchers, and academics undertaking research projects focusing on child protection in SSA.