Tanzania: More Than 800 Girls Appeal to Govt to End Teenage Pregnancy

By Louis Kolumbia

More than 800 girls have asked the government to end early pregnancy and implement the High Court ruling, which struck off some sections of the Law of Marriage Act, 1971 which allows marriage of children below the age of 18.

The girls from five regions – Mwanza, Shinyanga, Morogoro, Dodoma and Dar es Salaam – gathered in Dodoma at the weekend to commemorate one year of a landslide victory, following the High Court ruling delivered on July 8, last year.

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In the ruling, delivered by Judge Ataulwa Munisi on behalf of two other judges, stated that “(a) The provisions of section 13 and 17 of the Marriage Act of 1971 (Cap 29 R.E 2002) were unconstitutional for offending the provisions of Articles 12, 13 and 18 of the United Republic of Tanzania as amended. (b) That the provisions of section 13 and 17 The Law of Marriage Act of 1971 (Cap 29 R.E 2002), be declared null and void and expunged from statute and 18 years age should remain for both until the government amends the law.” Thus, according to this ruling, it is illegal for a person aged under 18 to be married.

The case No 5 of 2016 was filed by Ms Rebecca Gyumi, the founder and director of a children’s rights organisation, Msichana Initiative.

Yesterday, Ms Gyumi told The Citizen from Dodoma that it was unfortunate one year down the road, the government had failed to amend the sections of the Law of Marriage Act, 1971.

“Therefore, the girls voice their concern and want the government to end early pregnancy and implement the High Court ruling,” she said in a telephone interview.

According to her, the deputy minister of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Dr Hamis Kigwangalla, who was the guest of honour, said the government was committed to amending the law and was still seeking stakeholders’ opinion on the issue.

“That wasn’t a new government remark. Almost every cabinet minister, including the minister of Constitutional and Legal Affairs, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi, have been making remarks without actual implementation,” she noted.

She pointed out that Msichana Initiative planned to file an online petition to seek public opinion that would be used during the September Parliament to pressurise the government to amend the law.

According to her, the petition will be available Msichana Initiative’s website, social media, Facebook, twitter and Instagram and rural dwellers would be reached as well through community media.

In her petition, Ms Gyumi said the two sections were against Articles 12, 13 and 18 of the Constitution, which gave all people equal rights before the law and not to be discriminated against.

Judge Munisi and the two other judges agreed with the arguments raised by Ms Gyumi and stated that the two sections be struck off the law.

Other judges, who were hearing the case were Shaaban Lila, who was the leader of the panel and Sakieti Kihiyo.

Delivering the ruling, Judge Munisi noted that the two sections contravened the Constitution, hence they did not qualify to be part of the Marriage Act, 1971.

Judge Munisi said it was unfair to subject a child aged 14 to marriage as stated in one of the sections and that such a child had no wider understanding and could hardly comprehend responsibilities and obligations of a married person.

The Judge also said the law was discriminatory and unfair as it subjected a girl child to be married at 14 years old, while the same law stated that a boy could only marry, when they attained the age of 18.

The Judge further noted that the two sections were against the Constitution, which gave every person a right to express themselves and that a decision to get married should be personal and it was unbecoming for parents or another institution to decide on such issues on behalf of another person.

Source: allafrica.com

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