We’ve mentioned on this site before that we love John Magufuli, the president of Tanzania, right? It is no secret that he is a kick-ass president, the sort that African nations need. He doesn’t have much to say, but by God, that country keeps going from bad to good to better. And then, when we could not love his leadership more, new laws have been put in place regarding child marriages.
According to Reuters, Tanzanian men who marry schoolgirls or get them pregnant now face 30 years in prison as the government takes tougher measures to tackle child marriage and teenage pregnancy.
This law was brought into place to deal with the high rate of teenage pregnancy in the east African nation. 21 percent of girls aged 15 to 19 have given birth, according to a 2015/16 survey conducted by the Tanzania Bureau of Statistics. This makes Tanzania one of the worst countries in the world for teenage pregnancy.
While sex with underage girls is already a criminal offence, sex during marriage is, of course, perfectly legal. Poor parents therefore often marry off their young daughters for cash using a special dispensation under the marriage law. This clause allows girls as young as 14 to marry with parental or court consent.
As of June 2016, however, it is now illegal for anyone to marry primary and secondary school girls under any circumstances. Boo Yah!!
George Masaju, Tanzania’s Attorney General, said the new measure was taken to complement Tanzania’s free education policy, launched in January, and ensure that all girls are able to complete their education.
“We are aiming to create a better environment for our school girls to finish their studies without any barriers,” he told parliament.
Early marriage not only deprives girls of education and opportunities but increases the risk of death or serious childbirth injuries if they have babies before their bodies are ready.
Child brides are often disempowered and at greater risk of domestic and sexual violence and HIV, experts say.
“Girls who are married off at a young age are being denied the freedom to make informed decisions later in life,” said Eda Sanga, head of the Tanzanian women’s rights group TAMWA.
There is no denying that marriage when neither your body nor mind is prepared for it stunts growth. This new move will protect girls and give the a chance at a decent opportunity.
There is no doubt that this might be difficult to monitor. One can only hope that enough vigilant neighbours and family members will cry out when they see a girl being ‘sold’ by her family. The threat of a jail term affects not only the groom but the parents of the child bride, so it is hoped that this will act as a deterrent for future acts of this nature.
Nigeria, are you listening?!
But in my country, we have a senate that throws a gender equality bill straight out on account of religious reasons (read: reluctance for change).
I can only hope that as we scream until we are hoarse on these issues, that somebody in Nigeria is listening. I can only hope that as they see other countries progressing, it has an impact on their judgement. I doubt it though. But we will still open our smelling mouths and call ourselves the giant of Africa. Na wa.
For those who scream “It is our culture, it is our tradition!” please note that it was also our culture to go to war with scraps of clothes tied to our loins. It was our culture to walk miles in search of fresh drinking water. It was our culture to live in small thatched huts with just the door for ventilation and light.
When you know better, you do better.
Do not sit in your air-conditioned mansion, your air-conditioned car, while wearing your designer threads and chalk off paedophilia as ‘culture’.
Let us stop this misogyny, this insistence that women and young girls are possessions, chattel to do with as we please. Angela Merkel, Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Clinton, Malala Yousafzai…all these women are people’s daughters who were given the opportunity to be all that they could be.
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