Tanzania is a country located in East Africa where child marriages often take place. According to Human Rights Watch, girls at very young age ranging from 7 years to 16 years are forced to marry elder men. In return, girls’ families receives dowry (lots of cows) for getting their daughters married. The early marriages have set their lives in jeopardy, exposing these girls to verbal and physical abuse, spousal rape and female genital mutilation. Many were forced to go through gender mutilation prior to their marriages. Girls who refused to marry were verbally abused by their parents and strictly punished.
These girls are deprived from the rights to education and pushed into poverty for the rest of their lives. Married girls who attended schools are constantly tested for pregnancy because they’re not allowed into classes while being pregnant. It is marked as profanity and bad example for others. Once a girl is tested positive for pregnancy, she would be removed from school and expected to stay home. It’s even a bigger problem when girls have to deal with pregnancy because it places their reproductive health at great risks due to their awfully young ages. Many have stated that they were deserted by their husbands without any form of financial support to care for their children. Being a young girl, shut from all the opportunities, now there’s another responsibility of looking after another child all alone.
The girls wanted to educate themselves, but their families being immersed into hunger and poverty didn’t perceive education as important. They only wanted to marry off their daughters to men so they can benefit from the dowry to live their life well. Far from family support, these children are not protected by the law or do not have any legal support to look up to. Unfortunately, Tanzania’s draft constitution does not contain a minimal age for girls to be married. Though, under Marriage Act 1971, minimum age for girls are 15 and for boys are 18. However, with the parental consent, they are given the court’s permission to marry at the age of 14. The law in any case was not enforced by the authorities since much younger girls were being forced to marriage.
For instance, Anita is a victim of child marriage who was forced by her family to marry at 16 while she was in high school. Based on Human Rights Watch, Anita said, “My father did not have money to support my schooling…I then discovered that he had already received 20 cows as dowry for me.” What’s worse is that many girls perceives marriages as an escape from the exploitation of their employer and work place. For example, Judith worked as a household worker who got married at 14 to escape from the maltreatment of her boss. Tanzania’s government plans to administrate Marriage Act by legalizing 18 as a minimum age for both genders and also intends to place a strong barrier against child marriage for the law to be implemented accurately. According to UNICEF, Tanzania is one of the countries that have the highest rate of child marriages in the world.
A little girl poses with her husband and son.
Child marriages take away the innocence and childhood from these young children and hurl them into a troublesome adulthood. Rather than playing with friends or toys, they’re forced to worry about bigger issues such as not getting married, not getting beaten by their spouses and not getting thrown out of schools due to pregnancy which is barely their fault. When these girls are married off to older men,they are inevitably exposed to serious health risks such as marital rape, torture and HIV/AIDS since prospective spouses may already be infected due to prior sexual relationships. Therefore, these young girls’ feel rejected and shut from the world of education and opportunities. It is completely an injustice to the children because every child has the right to a playful childhood and education to make them grow.