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Young girls in Tanzania married off by parents for money

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 10th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In the African nation of Tanzania, poor farm families often sell off their daughters - some as young as 15, or even younger, to rich older men as brides. These young women are frequently denied things in an already impoverished situation, shut off from education and others, usually married to far older men.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Zaramo tribal tradition, when a man has paid his dowry, he becomes the sole custodian of the bride since she no longer belongs to her family.

One such child bride, named Mrisho, faced many undue hardships. Within a year after being married, she became pregnant, and there were complications.

"When I got pregnant I had severe stomach pains, but he accused me of faking the pains. He refused to take me to hospital and instead he gave me a concoction of herbs to drink," she said.

Suffering a difficult delivery, good fortune finally smiled on Mrisho. "I thought that was the end of my life, but (I survived) thanks to an elderly woman who came to my rescue and helped me deliver."

Mrisho's marriage turned sour a year later. "I decided to run away from him, but I could not go back home. I went to stay with my aunt who is living in Zinga."

Women's rights groups blame Tanzania's high rates of child marriage on the country's marriage law, which gives the courts and parents the discretion to marry off children as young as 14.

"Some parents are hiding under the shadow of this law and selling their daughters to get money or cows. We strongly condemn this behavior," women's rights activist Eddah Hawala of the organization Kiota Women's Health and Development says. Hawala, whose agency helps marginalized girls, says that early marriage exposes girls to the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases and death in childbirth.
 
Mrisho, whose education was cut short, survived a far worse fate that her fellow classmate, who was secretly removed from school and married to a 42-year-old man who turned out to be a polygamist.

"My teachers opposed the idea of me getting married, but my father was rather insistent," Mrisho said. "Whenever I told him I wanted to remain in school, he shrugged it off by saying he did not attend a single class himself yet he managed to produce children and have a family."

A study on child marriage in 2008 performed by the Children Dignity Forum shows that child marriage is a big problem in Tanzania and is more prevalent in its Coast, Mwanza and Mara regions.

The survey found that child marriage was driven by factors including the desire of a girl's parents to get a dowry, especially when they are poor, and a lack of knowledge about the impact of such marriages.

Girls are more seriously affected by child marriage than boys, as they are more vulnerable to disease and can have complications during childbirth.

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