The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Women Activists Speak Out Against Marriage At 18

Advocates on issues regarding the improvement of women's welfare have condemned legislators' recent proposal to slash marriage age from 21 years to 18.

According to legislators, the Ministry of Justice is overwhelmed by continuous applications from people under 21 requesting for special marriage approvals, adding that there were 40 applications received between July and December 2012.

However, women activities have decried the proposal and think it will only do more harm to those involved in such marriages.

Josephine Nkurunziza, a Gender Analyst working with Girl Hub Rwanda, stated that the focus shouldn't be on age but reasons why they are seeking to get married at such an early age.

She said that the problem could me much bigger, therefore they should look critically into the reasons why and not so much about the overwhelming number of 18 year olds seeking marriage.

"There might be a number of issues leading to this; for instance, most girls who get pregnant at around that age are afraid of condemnation and criticism from the society, so the easier option would be to get married. This and other reasons could be among the issues that lead to the increasing number of early marriages," she said.

Nkurunziza said that slashing the marriage age to 18 is a bad idea also since youth at that age aren't always mentally grown enough to start a family and therefore don't have the capacity.

Faith Mbabazi, a Woman activist who is also the chairperson of the Rwanda female Journalists Association, said that there are many risks if this proposal is passed.

She said that this won't only lead to early school drop outs, but also thwart family planning efforts as the earlier one gets married, most likely the more children they is bound to have ,especially if they are illiterate.

"This might also lead to more people in that tender age bracket seeking to get married also if it is made legal for them to get married at 18 years.

This has quite a number of adverse effects, especially on the girl child.

Our lawmakers should rethink their proposal and instead find ways of providing counseling services to such young people so they can get married at a reasonable age when they are prepared and ready for a lifetime commitment," Mbabazi said.

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