LHRC challenges government to amend Marriage Act

THE Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) has made called on the government to amend the Marriage Act of 1971 to set 18 years as minimum age for marriage, according to High Court ruling of 2016.

LHRC Executive Director Ms Anna Henga told reporters in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday that the centre was calling on the government to amend Article 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act of 1971 to end child marriages.

The call was made following on-going discussions on the marriage age despite a High Court ruling which raised the minimum age for marriage to 18 from 15.

In 2016, Rebeca Gyumi, the founder and executive director of Msichana Initiative, a local NGO which aims to empower a girl child through education, won a landmark High Court ruling in 2016 to raise the age of child marriage for girls in Tanzania from 14 to 18.

She challenged the Marriage Act which allowed girls as young as 14 in Tanzania to be married with their parents’ consent and thanks to her petition and campaigning by her organization, Msichana Initiative, the High Court ruled that marriage under the age of 18 was illegal and directed the government to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 for both boys and girls within one year.

The Court of Appeal upheld the landmark 2016 ruling by the High Court against child marriage in 2019.

Ms Henga said LHRC strongly condemns arguments advanced by a section of people that a child aged 11, 12 or 13 should be allowed to get married based on environmental factors including health, faith, and the customs of the relevant community.

Ms Henga said authorities and stakeholders should use the opportunities raised to support efforts shown by activists to fight against oppressive laws.

“It is the responsibility of the authorities and human rights stakeholders to ensure that they fight and support the efforts made to eliminate oppressive laws and stereotypes that cause damage to women and girls,” she explained.

She noted that stakeholders should refrain from statements that set back efforts to free girls.

She added that society should realize that girls have basic rights and thus their rights should be protected and refrain from carrying out outdated customs and traditions.

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