Media Women’s Association (TAMWA)
2007 International Women's Day
THE LAW OF MARRIAGE ACT 1971 UNDERMINES THE RIGHT OF THE GIRL CHILD
• TAMWA urges the government to speed up the amendment process
As Tanzania prepares to mark the International Women’s Day March 8, this year, the government has been urged to speed up the process of amending the Law of Marriage Act (LMA) of 1971 as it undermined developmental rights of the girl child and women in general.
LMA ironically legalizes marriages of the girl at the age 14 and 15 with court and parents/ guardians consent, respectively.
Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) has noted with concern that some parents/guardians exploit the gaps in the marriage law, forcing their girl children into marriage so as to get bride price, thus denying the girls among other things, the right to formal and informal education.
TAMWA understands that at the age of 14 or 15 years, the girl has just completed her primary education if she enrolled on time and indeed, this level of education is insufficient for her to be able to manage challenges of the changing world.
We are confident that the girl will be more productive and more responsible mother and citizen of this land if left to pursue her carrier and married at requisite age preferably above 20 years of age.
marriage, also denies the girl child informal knowledge as at the age of 15
the girl is in transition from childhood to adulthood, and she needs time to
learn some adult life skills before becoming matured person.
On health aspect, TAMWA noted that medical practitioners and nutritionists have made it clear that a girl at the age of 15 or 14 is still growing and her body needs more nutritional care for appropriate growth in order to cross over from child hood to adult stage.
To deliver at this age is considered unhealthy and dangerous as girls are not matured physically or psychological to have children and in most cases may be deformed during the process.
There is also medical evidence that many girls of that age bracket give birth by way of surgery which is dangerous to the life of the mothers and the babies.
From the legal grounds, law defines marriage as a voluntary union between a man and a woman intended to last for their joint life, but how come a girl of 14 years make a voluntary contract which will last for ever?
It is from this perspective that the marriage law becomes retrogressive as it promotes girls regression since it plunges them into poverty, risk of contracting HIV the virus that causes AIDS, illiteracy, maternal deaths and other sorts of vulnerability.
Unlike Marriage Act which doesn’t care much about the age, some laws are extremely careful on the question of age such that strict adherence of the provisions of such laws will render a married girl of bellow 18 to be incompetent to benefit or be protected by such laws.
For example the Elections Act of 1985 stipulates that any one below 18 can’t vote or contest because she/he is considered a minor.
that a legal married woman at age of 15 let say with children is taken to be
incapable for voting for her leaders at the same time she can’t be voted
for as long as she is less than 18.
The Law of Contracts on the other hand, provides that every person is competent to contract at the age of 18 and any persons below this age is incompetent and contract entered by such a person has no legal powers.
These are incredible contradictions, while this legally married girl cant vote or being voted for she is also incompetent to enter into a simple contractor, how comes a girl child at age of 14 or 15 with children is taken to be capable of voluntarily enter into a marriage contract that is expected to last for her life with a husband?
TAMWA is afraid that unless the government gives priority to the issue of amending LMA and efforts made by different stakeholders to sensitise and educate the public on negative impacts of early girl child marriage, the country is likely not to achieve millennium development goals which include empowerment of girls through education as well as reduction of maternal mortality.