In a landmark development, Tanzania, a nation with one the highest child marriage rates in the world, last month decided to take a tougher stance and passed a law that Tanzanian men found marrying or impregnating schoolgirls now face 30 years in prison.
New provisions passed by the Parliament in June state that: “It shall be unlawful under any circumstance for any person to marry a primary or secondary schoolgirl or a schoolboy; a primary or secondary schoolboy to marry any person.” Those found guilty will face 30 years in prison.
It also notes that: “Any person who impregnates a primary school or a secondary schoolgirl commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to imprisonment for a term of 30 years.”
Additionally, the provision stipulates that anyone found guilty of “aiding, abetting or soliciting a primary or secondary schoolgirl or a schoolboy to marry while pursuing primary or secondary education”, would be liable to a fine of not less than five million shillings (£1765, $2282) or to imprisonment for a term of five years or to both”.
Welcomed by rights groups, the new provisions now provide strong protection and acts as a bulwark to allow girls to complete their education. It comes hand-in-hand with the government’s new free education policy, launched in January, George Masaju, Tanzania’s Attorney General, said.
According to Masaju, all school heads will be required to submit a detailed report about students who were married or pregnant to the Education Ministry, to ensure the law is enforced.
Women’s rights campaigners who commended the move, meanwhile, said efforts to boost the life chances of young girls could only be successful if there was greater recognition of the importance of educating them.
Governments need to increase community awareness, engage traditional and religious leaders, improve education for girls, improve livelihoods for families – a process which requires the coordination of a number of government bodies such as the ministries of health, education and finance, and external partners including international donors, UN agencies, and civil society groups.
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