Source: East African Business Week
The Human Rights Watch report on child marriages in Tanzania, documents how child marriages severely curtail girls' access to education.

It has exposed them to exploitation and violence that destruct social wellbeing of the people.

The report dubbed "No Way Out" indicates how girls are mistreated including marital rape and female genital mutilation (FGM) and reproductive health risks the women and girls face.

Speaking to East African Business Week last week in Dar es Salaam, Brenda Akia, women's rights research fellow at Human Rights Watch and author of the report said even during its recent constitutional review process the Tanzanian government failed to protect girls and women from child labour and forced marriages.

She said: "Although the problem is immense: Four out of ten girls in Tanzania married before the age of eighteen. Tanzanian government should show leadership on child marriage by making 18 the minimum age in the Marriage Act and providing stronger protections against child marriage."

The report calls on the government to take both short and long term measures to address the gaps, including shortcomings in the education system that allow schools to expel or exclude pregnant or married girls and to conduct mandatory pregnancy tests on girls.

The report said child marriage in Tanzania limits girls' access to education and exposes them to serious harms. Human Rights Watch documented cases in which girls as young as seven were married.

The government should set 18 as the minimum marriage age for girls and boys as a first step toward eradicating child marriage and improving the lives of girls and women.

The 75-page report, "'No Way Out': Child Marriage and Human Rights Abuses in Tanzania," documents how child marriage severely curtail girls' access to education, and exposes them to exploitation and violence – including marital rape and female genital mutilation (FGM) – and reproductive health risks.

Human Rights Watch examined the gaps in Tanzania's child protection system, the lack of protection for victims of child marriage, and the obstacles girls face in attempting to obtain redress, as well as shortcomings in existing laws and government plans to combat child marriage.

"Tanzania's draft Constitution unfortunately provides no minimum age for marriage," said Brenda Akia, women's rights research fellow at Human Rights Watch.

The Human Rights Watch report is based on in-depth interviews with 135 girls and women in 12 districts in Tanzania, as well as with government officials, local activists, and international agency personnel.

Tanzania's Marriage Act of 1971 sets the minimum age at 18 for boys and 15 for girls with parental consent. It also permits both girls and boys to marry at 14 with a court's permission.

The Constituent Assembly, tasked with writing a new constitution, missed an opportunity to include a uniform minimum marriage age in its October 2014 final draft, Human Rights Watch said.

The Tanzanian government plans to review the Marriage Act, based on recommendations by the Tanzanian Law Reform Commission, and will finalize a government paper for public consultation after the conclusion of the constitutional review process.

Although child marriage rates in Tanzania have decreased in recent years, they remain unacceptably high, Human Rights Watch said. Four in 10 Tanzanian women married before turning 18, according to government statistics.

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