Africa

Zanzibar election: Couples 'divorce' over voting difference

Tanzanians cast their ballots for the Tanzanian presidential elections as others queue at a polling station on 25 October 2015 in Zanzibar Image copyright AFP
Image caption There are fears some women did not vote in Zanzibar because of divorce threats

Husbands who abandoned their children after disagreeing with their wives' choices in Zanzibar's election must provide for their families, a women's rights lawyer has told the BBC.

The call comes after divorces following October's election.

The vote on the semi-autonomous archipelago was cancelled.

Even so, Tanzania's Daily News reports eight women at a lawyers' meeting said their husbands had divorced them over their voting preference.

Saada Salum Issa, programme co-ordinator of the Zanzibar Female Lawyers Association, told the BBC Swahili service she had concerns about the divorces.

"This is really affecting democracy in the island as women's free choice is being compromised by their spouses' dictation," she said.

Some women had not voted in the poll because of divorce threats, she added.

The Daily News added that women whose husbands had left them were complaining that they had also abandoned their children.

The BBC's Aboubakar Famou in Tanzania says that while the vote at the polling booths is confidential, disagreements most probably occurred after discussions between the couples.

There is little the women can do to challenge the men's actions in Zanzibar where 99% of the population is Muslim, he adds.

Zanzibar maintains a political union with Tanzania, but has its own parliament and president.

Its presidential vote were cancelled by the head of Zanzibar's electoral commission on grounds of alleged fraud.

International observers say the nationwide elections were largely "free and fair", but all groups raised concerns over the subsequent annulment of Zanzibar's local elections.

Zanzibar and Pemba Island

Semi-autonomous islands in union with Tanzania

  • Population 1.3 million

  • Area 2,461 sq km (950 sq miles)

  • Major language Kiswahili, English

  • Major religion Islam

  • Life expectancy 58 years (men), 62 years

  • Currency Tanzania shilling

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