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Tanzania's AG appeals against court ruling raising marriage age for girls to 18

Tanzania's AG appeals against court ruling raising marriage age for girls to 18


Tanzania’s Attorney General George Masaju has appealed against a July 2016 ruling by the High Court raising the marriage age for girls from 15 to 18.

The court struck out the Sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act that allowed girls to marry at the age of 14 and 15, and then 18 years for boys after it was petitioned by girls’ rights advocate Rebeca Gyumi.

The appeal filed at the Court of Appeal this month was spotted by non-governmental organisation Girls Not Brides, committed to ending child marriage.

They expressed disappointment at the decision to appeal against the ruling which is expected to reduce the high rate at which girls are married before the age of 18 in the country.

The appeal contains arguments that suggest the High Court erred in its judgement including the equaling of the marriage age of both boys and girls, and declaring the 1971 Law of Marriages Act as irrelevant in this era.

It is also appealing against the ruling that customary and Islamic laws do not apply in matters of marriage stated in the law.

The outdated law allowed girls to marry at the age of fourteen with the consent of the court, and from the age of fifteen with the consent of their parents.

Until the hearing by the Court of Appeal, the July 8, 2016 ruling has allowed both boys and girls to enjoy their teenage years and perpetrators jailed to end child marriage in the country where 37% of girls are married before the age of 18.

At the recently ended United Nations General Assembly, President Edgar Lungu of Zambia, President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda and President Peter Mutharika of Malawi pledged to support efforts in ending child marriage in Africa by 2030.

African countries account for 15 of the 20 countries with the highest rates of child marriage globally and the region has the world’s highest prevalence of adolescent pregnancies, according to reports.

In all, 40 percent of girls marry before age 18 in Africa and they have more children on average than those who delay marriage.

This year, Malawi joined the likes of Gambia and Tanzania to ban child marriage after it raised the legal marriage age to 18.

Perpetrators of child marriages in Malawi commit an offense punishable by five years imprisonment and a fine of about $143.

Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh prohibited the practice which is now punishable by twenty years imprisonment.

In Tanzania, a court ruled as unconstitutional sections 13 and 17 of the Tanzania Law of Marriage Act, which allowed girls to marry at age 15 with parental permission and at age 14 with the permission of a court.

The parliament of Chad in December last year adopted a reform of its penal code which raises the legal marriage age from 16 to 18.

Chadian President Idriss Deby also promulgated a law that punishes any person party to the marriage of a minor by 5 to 10 years prison sentence and a fine of 500,000 to 5 million FCFA (750 to 7,500 euros).

Zimbabwe is yet to come up with laws to criminalize child marriages despite last year’s court ruling that outlawed the practice by striking out section 22(1) of the Marriage Act which allowed under-aged marriage in contravention of section 78(1) of the Constitution which sets 18 years as the minimum age.

Other African countries who have already outlawed child marriages are struggling to enforce the law as the practice continues in the blind side of the authorities.

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