Rescue of 14-year-old Tanzanian girl from marriage hoped to deter others

by Kizito Makoye | @kizmakoye | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Friday, 13 November 2015 15:44 GMT

In this 2008 file photo, Maasai girls study inside a classroom at Emusoi Centre in Arusha. REUTERS/David Conrad (TANZANIA)

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The impoverished east African country has one of the world's highest rates of child marriage

DAR ES SALAAM, Nov 13 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A dramatic rescue by Tanzanian police of a 14-year-old girl about to be married against her will should act as a warning to parents who marry off daughters for a dowry and deprive them of an education, women's rights activists said on Friday.

The teenager was due to sit exams at Mwamkulu school in Mpanda district, Katavi region, in western Tanzania this week when her father took her out of class to marry a 17-year-old boy who paid 11 cows as a dowry, police said.

But police, acting on a tip-off, stormed the wedding at a nearby village, finding the girl dressed in white, and arrested the bridegroom, his father, the girl's father and a teacher from her school accused of colluding over the wedding.

Katavi's Regional Police Commander Dhahiri Kidavashari said the teacher is accused of receiving a 500,000 Tanzanian shillings ($235) bribe from the girl's father to erase her school registration records. The teacher denies this.

Under Tanzanian law the minimum age for girls to marry is 15 with parental consent although 14-year-olds can be married if a court rules special circumstances exist.

"This girl was illegally removed from school to get married against her will and the suspects have the charges to answer," Kidavashari told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The impoverished east African country has one of the world's highest rates of child marriage with two in every five girls married before the age of 18.

Child marriage and early pregnancy affect girls' health, education, and future employment, according to campaigners.

Girls are regularly thrown out of school for being pregnant and data from UNICEF shows that one in three women in Tanzania lack basic literacy skills.

The teenager told police that she did not want to get married.

"I told my father I want to study but he refused and kept saying he was marrying me off because I was too dull to learn anything at school," the girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told police investigators.

Gemma Akilimali, a women's rights activist with Tanzania Gender Networking Programme, called on the authorities to ensure those involved are charged in a court of law to deter others and to make sure the girl returns to school.

"We do not want this case to end up in thin air. The parents who gave and received the dowry must be punished," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

($1 = 2,145.0000 Tanzanian shillings) (Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; )

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