High Court judgment in Tanzania rules age of marriage laws discriminatory and unconstitutional
13th Jul 2016. (Photo: Girls Not Brides)
Tanzania has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world. Almost two out of five girls in Tanzania are married before their 18th birthday.
Due to inaccurate birth and marriage records, it is difficult to record exact figures of child marriage in Tanzania. Yet child marriage is particularly prevalent in rural areas where children get married as early as 11 years old.
Some girls are forced to get married young to generate an income, or mahari (dowry), which can then be used by their brothers to secure a wife.
There is also a practice known as Nyumba ntobu which involves an older, wealthier woman paying a bride price for a young girl to become her wife. A man is then chosen to impregnate the girl and any children who are born belong to the older woman.
Human Rights Watch has highlighted that the Tanzanian government’s Primary School Leaving Examination, which determines which pupils may continue on to secondary school, exposes girls to child marriage.
Adolescent girls are sometimes forced to marry after failing the exam, whilst mandatory pregnancy tests and expelling pregnant and married girls from school also violates girls’ rights.
LEGAL AGE OF MARRIAGE
The Law of Marriage Act (1971) allows for boys to marry at 18 and girls to marry at 15. They can marry at 14 if courts approve their request. Girls under 18 need parental permission to marry.
Under customary laws, ethnic groups can follow and make decisions on marriage based on customs and traditions.
In August 2014, the “Child Marriage-Free Zone” national campaign to end child marriage was launched. It called for the review of discriminatory laws and renewed action in the health, education and legal sectors to prevent child marriage.
The campaign was initiated by the Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children, in partnership with UNFPA Tanzania, the Graca Machel Trust, the Children’s Dignity Forum and the Tanzania Media Women Association.
UNFPA, Marrying too young: End child marriage in Tanzania, 2013
Tamar Ezer, Child Marriage and Guardianship in Tanzania, Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law
Children’s Dignity Forum, FORWARD, Voices of child brides and child mothers in Tanzania, 2010
Human Rights Watch, “No Way Out”, Child Marriage and Human Rights In Tanzania, 2014