Tanzania: Bill On Marriage Act Seeks to End Underage Marriages

The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children has said it would table in the Parliament the Bill on Marriage Act that once endorsed and enforced would end underage marriages.

The Minister for the docket, Ms Ummy Mwalimu, gave an assurance yesterday in Dar es Salaam at an event to mark the World Population Day. Her assurance came as rights activists were for many years pushing for the amendment of the Marriage Act 1971 which allows a person under the age of 18 to get married.

Recently, the High Court stated that sections 13 and 17 of the Marriage Act were unconstitutional; the court also ruled that it was illegal for a person aged under 18 to be married.

The court was providing ruling to case number 5 of 2016 which was filed by Ms Rebecca Gyumi, the founder and director of the children rights organisation called Msichana Initiative.

"It's shame for the nation that many girls drop out of the schools due to early pregnancies," Ms Ummy said.

She said statistics show that the number of early pregnancies increased from 23 per cent in 2010 to 27 per cent this year, something which is dangerous to the country's development. She mentioned that Katavi region was leading by having big number of girls getting early pregnancies.

Director of Health Services of Marie Stopes Tanzania, Dr Joseph Komwihangiro, said his organisation was joining the government in providing awareness campaigns in reducing number of early pregnancies.

For last year, he said, Marie Stopes had reached about 500,000 women for family planning education. noting that 12 per cent of them were youth. He said the organisation is working hard to ensure this year the youth reached by the campaign accounts at least 20 per cent of all beneficiaries.

Earlier, Country Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Dr Natalia Kanem said the government should invest more on education to ensure that girls finish their studies in schools.

Source: Tanzania Daily News