29 November 2015

Tanzania: Review Marriage Legislation Now, Activists Tell Authorities

Dar es Salaam — Gender activists have reiterated the need for the government to hear the public call to review the Marriage Act of 1971 which allows girls as young as 14-year-old to marry with parental consent, saying it frustrates the war against child marriages and gender-based violence.

According to them, the law contradicts the effective implementation of the Child Act of 2009, which is a basic national child protection tool.

Speaking at an event to mark 16 days of activism against gender-based violence (GBV) yesterday, the director of Women's Legal Aid Centre (WLAC), Ms Theodosia Mhilu, said there was a public outcry, particularly by human right activists to review the law, but nothing has been done. "Now that we have the new government, we want to restart the push for the review of the law which actually has been a big challenge in the war against GBV," she said.

On average, two out of five girls are married off before their 18th birthday, putting Tanzania among countries with the highest child marriage rates in the world.

Women's rights groups say there is a strong correlation between child marriage, school dropout rates, early pregnancy and HIV/Aids and it is estimated that between 20 and 40 per cent of Tanzania girls marry before adulthood.

In his remarks representative of the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice and Constitution Affairs Mr Patience Ntwina said there have been efforts by the government to review the laws calling for stakeholders to keep up the pressure of ensuring the laws are changed.

"It is not that the government is not doing anything because this matter if cross-cutting there are many issues that ought to be addressed before the decision to change is reached," he said.

World Bank data show that 22.8 per cent of girls aged 15 to 19 in Tanzania had children or were pregnant in 2010, while the adolescent fertility rate (the number of births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19) was 129, giving the country the highest adolescent fertility rate in the world - a situation blamed to a large extent on early marriage and high school dropout rate.

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