DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A court in the northern Mara region of Tanzania has charged a 53-year-old man with marrying off his 12-year-old daughter to a man four times her age, Mwananchi newspaper reported last week.
Kakwaya Monge, of Nyaburundu village in Bunda district, was lured by a cash offer of Tsh.55,000 ($34) to marry off his daughter to 54-year-old Changwe Changigi, the newspaper reported.
Tanzania’s marriage law allows girls to get married at the age of 14 with parental consent.
Changigi was charged with kidnapping, rape and marrying an under-age girl, the paper reported.
Tanzania’s Sexual Offences Special Provisions Act of 1988 bans adults from having sexual intercourse with a minor. If found guilty, the man could face a 30-year prison sentence.
According to the newspaper, Monge admitted, when questioned by police, to having ‘sold’ his daughter, and said he was suffering from a heart condition and needed the money to buy medicine.
Christine Anyango, the officer in charge of gender and children affairs at the police headquarters in Dar es Salaam, told Thomson Reuters Foundation she was concerned about the increase in cases of parents who marry off their underage daughters for money.
Mara has one of Tanzania’s highest rates of child marriage. A 2008 survey by the Child Dignity Forum found that child marriage was driven by parents’ desire to get a dowry and ignorance of the impact of such marriages on their daughter’s physical and psychological health.
Asha Aboubakar, a women’s rights activist from the Gender Coalition of Tanzania, has criticised the country’s marriage law, which gives parents impunity for marrying off their underage daughters.
“I don’t think it is a question of ignorance of the law or lack of awareness, not at all, parents simply use their daughters as a source of income,” she said.
Aboubakar also noted that marriage law and legislation against sexual offences in Tanzania contradict each other.
While the marriage law of 1971 allows girls of 14 or older to get married with their parents’ consent, the Sexual Offences Special Provision Act criminalises any person who has sex with a girl below the age of 16, she said.