Tanzania: Govt to Appeal Against Ruling On Minimum Age of Marriage

The government has filed a notice of appeal against the High Court decision to strike out all provisions in the Law of Marriage Act, 1971, which allow a girl under 18 years old to get married with her parent's consent.

In the ruling delivered by Judge Ataulwa Munisi on behalf of two other judges recently, the Court stated that sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act, 1971 were unconstitutional.

The High Court gave the judgment following petition No 5 of 2016 filed by Ms Rebecca Gyumi, the founder and director of Children's Rights Organisation called Msichana Initiative.

However, the government through the Attorney General has filed a notice of appeal against the High Court ruling at the Court of Appeal.

Confirming the appeal, Ms Gyumi lawyer Mr Jebra Kambole said: "My client has received a notice from the Attorney General's Office, notifying her that the government will appeal against the High Court ruling."

In the petition, Ms Gyumi, through her lawyer was contending sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act, 1971, which allow a girl aged below 18 to marry.

She argued that, the two sections contravened Articles 12, 13 and 18 of the Constitution of the United Republic of Tanzania (1977, as amended until 2005), which gives people equal rights before the law and not to be discriminated against.

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

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

The Judge also said the law was discriminatory and unfair as it subjected a girlchild to be married at 14 years old, while the same law stated that a male person could only marry when he was aged 18 years.

Section 17(2) states:

"Where the court is satisfied that the consent of any person to a proposed marriage is being withheld unreasonably or that it is impracticable to obtain such consent, the court may, on application, give consent and such consent shall have the same effect as if it had been given by the person whose consent is required by subsection (1)."

Source: The Citizen