Human Rights Watch (HRW) has applauded a landmark decision by a Tanzanian High Court which ruled that the marriages for girls and boys under age 18 was unconstitutional.
The 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.
According to HRW, ‘‘The decision represents a critical step forward in the struggle to end child marriage in Tanzania, which has one of the highest rates in the world.’‘
The decision represents a critical step forward in the struggle to end child marriage in Tanzania, which has one of the highest rates in the world.
It is estimated that some 30% of underage girls are married in The Gambia, while in Tanzania the rate is pegged at 37%.
Human Rights Watch said it had documented the direct life-long consequences for girls of child marriage in Tanzania. ‘‘Girls face serious reproductive health problems resulting from becoming pregnant too early and very often,’‘ the group said.
The group further bemoaned the heightened risk of violence girls face in marriages, including marital rape and domestic violence. Child marriages also affected the education of these child brides who are often barred from attending class.
The case was filed earlier this year by the Msichana Initiative, an organization advocating for girls’ right to education in Tanzania. The group argued that the Marriage Act violated girls’ essential rights to equality, dignity, and access to education, and contravened Tanzania’s Law of the Child Act.
The court ruling follows a series of new legal measures, adopted by the Tanzanian government, that makes it a crime to attempt to marry school-going children under 18, as well as any “person who impregnates a primary school or a secondary school girl.”
HRW however maintains that even though the court’s ruling and government’s initiatives were important, the necessary legal regimes and community mechanisms needed to be put in place to protect girls at risk of child marriage.
The President of Gambia Yahya Jammeh, had earlier banned marriages of under aged girls threatening jail terms for people involved in such marriages.
Jammeh disclosed during the Eid-ul-Fitr celebration that the husband of the girl, the parents and even the Imam who supervises the marriage ceremony, would all be jailed if found to have engaged in such a practice.
“If you want to know whether what I am saying is true or not, try it tomorrow and see,” he warned.
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