DAR ES SALAAM (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Tanzania has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. On average, some two out of five girls will be married before their 18th birthday. In 2010, about 37 percent of women aged 20-24 were married or in a union before they turned 18.
The country’s marriage law, which dates from 1971, allows girls aged 14 to get married with parental consent and, according to the United Nations Population Fund, between 20 percent and 40 percent of girls do so before reaching adulthood.
CHILD MARRIAGES WORLDWIDE
- Between 2011 and 2020, more than 140 million girls will become child brides, according to the United Nations Population Fund. If current levels of child marriages remain unchanged, 14.2 million girls annually or 39,000 daily will marry too young.
- Poor families in Tanzania force their children into marriage either to settle debts or to make money and escape the cycle of poverty. Child marriage increases poverty and girls who marry young are likely to miss out on education.
- Girls living in poor families are more likely to marry before the age of 18 than girls in families with a higher income.
- In most cases, young girls find themselves unable to complete their education due to family pressures to marry, sexual harassment, or an unwanted pregnancy. According to a survey carried out by Tanzania’s Ministry of Education, more than 16,000 girls dropped out of school from 2008 to 2010 due to pregnancy. Parents and families actively discouraged some girls to enrol in secondary school and instructed others to try to fail so they could drop out without arousing suspicion.
- Medical practitioners and nutritionists have made it clear that a girl aged 14 or 15 is still growing and her body needs more nutritional care to achieve appropriate growth in order to pass from the child to adult stage.
- Girls younger than 15 are five times more likely to die in childbirth than women in their 20s. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death worldwide for women ages 15 to 19. According to the Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (2010), a quarter of women aged 15 to 19 are pregnant or have given birth.
- Young maternal age is associated with prolonged or obstructed labour, which can lead to obstetric fistula - a hole in the birth canal. In Tanzania, there are roughly 2500-3000 new cases of obstetric fistula each year.
- Pregnancy is the leading cause of girls dropping out of school in Tanzania. In January 2010, a new law was passed that allowed girls to return to school after pregnancy.
- The Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey (2010) found that about 20 percent of 15 to 19 year old women had given birth to at least one child in Tanzania.
- Child brides face a higher risk of contracting HIV because they often marry an older man with more sexual experience. Girls ages 15 to 19 are between 2 and 6 times more likely to contract HIV than boys of the same age in sub-Saharan Africa.
- Child marriage is a product of cultures that devalue women and girls and discriminate against them. "The discrimination often manifests itself in the form of domestic violence, marital rape, and deprivation of food, lack of access to information, education, and healthcare” according to a UNICEF report entitled Child Marriage and the Law.
- Child brides often show symptoms of sexual abuse and post-traumatic stress such as feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and severe depression.
- Tanzania has launched an all-encompassing social media campaign aimed at raising awareness about the need to reverse the fate of girls who are often married off at a very young age. Although Tanzania has seen some progress over the last few years, reducing child marriage by as much as 13 percent, today one in six girls aged 15 to 19 years is married.
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