Make 18 legal age to marry: activists
By Songa wa Songa The Citizen Reporter
The marriage Act 1971 sets the minimum age at 18 for boys and 15 for girls with parental consent but also permits both boys and girls to marry at 14 with the court’s permission.
In its new report entitled ‘No Way Out: Child Marriage and Human Rights Abuses in Tanzania’ launched in Dar es Salaam yesterday, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has found that the practice severely curtails girls’ access to education and exposes them to exploitation and violence, including marital rape and female genital mutilation.
The study conducted in 12 districts interviewed 135 girls and women, and identified dowry, child labour-related abuses, adolescent pregnancy, child abuse and neglect,as well as limited access to education as major contributing factors.
Releasing the findings, research fellow at HRW and author of the report Ms Brenda Akia said it was unfortunate that the proposed constitution did not provide minimum age for marriage.
“The Tanzanian government should show leadership on child protection by making 18 the minimum age in the marriage Act,” she said.
The marriage Act 1971 sets the minimum age at 18 for boys and 15 for girls with parental consent but also permits both boys and girls to marry at 14 with the court’s permission. HRW recommends that the limit be set at 18 for both boys and girls without loopholes to permit underage nuptials.
Speaking at the event, British High Commissioner Dianna Melrose expressed disappointment at Tanzania’s hesitation to sign Girl Summit Charter—the joint initiative by the UK government and Unicef aimed at mobilising domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM) within a generation.
“We are very disappointed that the government of Tanzania has not signed yet,” she said and added: “Now is the time to act.”
Ms Catherine Revocatus from Shinyanga who fell pregnant at the age of 14 and got expelled from primary school in her final year, brought the audience to tears with the narration of how she suffered physical and emotional abuses after getting married thereafter to the man who impregnated her.
“I got pregnant with my second child when I was 16 but I couldn’t stand the abuses; I ran away from the village and went to Shinyanga town where I worked as a domestic worker,” she said.