DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania(Thomson Reuters Foundation)--Tanzania is banking on the on-going constitutional review process of marriage laws to stop child marriages, according to a report in the government newspaper Daily News.
The marriage Act of 1971 allows girls as young as 14-years-old to marry with parental consent. On average, two out of five girls are married off before their 18th birthday, putting Tanzania among countries with the highest child marriage rates in the world.
Mathias Chikawe, the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Minister said the government has been trying to change the laws that allow child marriages by raising the marriage age to 18 but that society has not been cooperative.
Chikawe, who took part in high-level panel discussions to end child marriage, organised to mark the International Day of the Girl Child, said the government had 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 the Daily News.
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 told the Daily News.
Women’s rights groups said there is a strong correlation between child marriage, school dropout rates, early pregnancy and HIV/AIDS and it is 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 (the number of births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19) was 129, giving Tanzania the highest adolescent fertility rate in the world - a situation blamed to a large extent on early marriage and a high school dropout rate, the Daily News reported in April