Child marriage is a form of violence and a violation and abuse of children’s rights set out in numerous international and regional human rights instruments. These include the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the African Convention on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC). State Parties have a duty to guarantee these human rights by embedding the commitments they have made at the global level into national laws, policies and plans. Regional and international treaties require countries to set the minimum age of marriage at 18, register all marriages, and take effective action, including legislation, to eradicate child marriages.
While the Tanzanian Law of Marriage Act currently allows girls as young as 14 to marry, progress has been made towards raising the minimum age of marriage to 18. This is the result of a petition filed at the High Court in 2016 by the Rebeca Gyumi to challenge sections 13 and 17 of the law. The High Court ruled in favor of Msichana and declared the provisions unconstitutional. However, in 2017 the government, through the attorney general, appealed the High Court decision. In October 2019, the Court of Appeal upheld the High Court ruling and required the government to work through parliament to change the law within one year. This was a landmark decision for girls’ rights in Tanzania and provides an unmissable opportunity to accelerate legal rights and progress for girls across the country.
Msichana Initiative in partnership with UN WOMEN on 10th October 2020 conducted a stakeholders’ meeting to build a common understanding on the issue of child marriage in Tanzania and the efforts that have been made in order to discuss and come up with a tangible strategies that will help to end Child Marriage in Tanzania.
During this meeting Religious Leaders, Young Women Leaders, Youth Led Organizations, Tanzania Ending Child Marriage Network (TECMN) members had the chance to share their experience and different strategies that will help to end child marriage in Tanzania.
Ms. Hodan Addou, the UN WOMEN Country Representative, explained that, the goal is to make an explicit, bold and universal commitment to ending all forms of violence against women and children, as part of an integrated agenda for investing in the protection and empowerment of women and children. Africa has one of the highest prevalence rates of child marriage in the world, with about 4 in 10 girls being married or in a union before the age of 18, of these girls, as many as 1 in 6 marry before the age of 15.
She went further to explain that the global community has made significant commitments to end child marriage and in May 2014, the African Union launched the continental campaign to end child marriage as an intervention to achieve Agenda 2063. In 2015, the Africa Common Position on ending Child Marriage was adopted by AU heads and held the first Africa Girls Conference on Ending Child Marriage which was held in Zambia.
Tanzania, like other African Countries, is a signatory of various international and regional instruments like the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), African Convention on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACRWC), and the Maputo Protocol. All these require the country to set 18 years as the universal minimum age for marriage.
‘’ It is clear that there are efforts to end Violence Against Women and Children (VAWC) including child marriage, however, there is multiple contradictory frameworks, that is customary, religious and statutory that are patriarchal by nature which leave room for discrimination and marginalization of girls and women.
In order to change this situation, there is a need for sustained and strategic advocacy and support from the gender equality actors who can set the change in motion and build partnerships that will ensure there is amendments of the laws that make child marriage flourish’’. Hodan Addou
Rebeca Gyumi also had a chance to share the background of the Child Marriage Case, she explained that as much as there was ongoing advocacy to end child marriage, there was minimal progress in amending the Marriage Act and cure the legal loophole. It is a Constitutional right under Art. 26, to challenge any law which is against the Constitution of URT, which was the fuel to file the petition as far as the Marriage Act sections 13 and 17 were concerned. These sections were allowing a girl as young as 15 years old to be married with parental consent and 14 with the court consent. The main objective was to use the case to promote the use of law to advance democratic values and rule of law, to promote access to justice and public debate and to encourage citizen agency in advancing just societies.
The changes of the law need all our efforts and you can be the part of this efforts, please follow us on our social media platform by using #NiZamuYaWabunge and #SheriaYaNdoa to contribute your voice on advocating for the parliament to table the Bill.
‘’Girls should aspire to be more than just wives and mothers. But they only do that with an education’’ Rebeca Gyumi
The role of ending child marriage is not for specific people, organization or government everyone has a role to play to end child marriages in Tanzania.