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Tanzania seeks to ban child marriage with new constitution

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In the African nation of Tanzania, two out of five girls are married off before their 18th birthday. This figure puts Tanzania among countries with the highest child marriage rates in the world. The nation is now banking on the on-going constitutional review process of marriage laws to stop child marriages.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Among other things, the review will hopefully overturn Tanzania's Marriage Act of 1971 allows girls as young as 14-years-old to marry with parental consent.

Constitutional and Legal Affairs Minister Mathias Chikawe says the government has been trying to change laws that allow child marriages by raising the marriage age to 18 years old and older - but that Tanzanian society has not been cooperative.

Chikawe took part in high-level panel discussions to end child marriage, working to organize the International Day of the Girl Child. To this end, the Tanzanian government conducted a survey with the intent to change both the marriage law and the capital punishment law.

"But to our surprise, different communities wanted both laws to remain as they are. In fact, some communities even queried why the age of consent for girls to marry should be 18," he told reporters.

Chikawe said that the government has presented its views to the Constitutional Review Commission on the need for a new law that will allow girls only 18-years-old and older to get married.

"I remain hopeful that the government will finally enact the right laws in this case, through the envisaged new constitution," he said.

There is a high correlation between child marriage, school dropout rates, early pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. It's estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of Tanzania girls marry before adulthood.

World Bank data shows that 22.8 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 in Tanzania had children or were pregnant in 2010, while the adolescent fertility rate was 129, giving Tanzania the highest adolescent fertility rate in the world. This is explained to a large extent on early marriage and a high school dropout rate.

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