Source: Tanzania Daily News

THE Government will table the proposed new marriage bill to increase the minimum legal age of marriage for women from 14 to 18, people familiar with the developments say the minimum age could be 21 years.

Minister for Constitution and Legal Affairs Dr. Damas Ndumbaro said the government has cleared the proposal after a lengthy debate with stakeholders over the matter.

Responding to a supplementary question in the National Assembly in Dodoma on Tuesday, the Legal Affairs Minister said the new bill will be tabled in the law making organ anytime from now.

"We are ready to table this bill," the Minister told the National Assembly Speaker Dr. Tulia Ackson. The Speaker had sought additional clarification after the Minister told parliamentarians that the government had concluded gathering public opinion on the matter.

There has been a decades-long debate about changes to the Marriage Act of 1971 which in context has been in conflict with the Child Act that recognizes a person under the age of 18 as a child.

The Court of Appeal, also dismissed the Tanzanian Government's appeal against the judgment of the High Court which invalidated the provisions of the marriage law that allow a female child under the age of 18 to be married.

The Minister of Constitution and Law has told Speaker Dr. Tulia Ackson in Parliament today, April 18, 2023 that the Government has completed the debate and is ready to submit to Parliament a bill to amend the Marriage Act of 1971.

A Member of Parliament (Special Seats) Dr. Tea Ntala told the Parliament that the process to gather opinions from stakeholders was taking time and that the people involved are the perpetrators of child marriage.

"At this point the girl child remains helpless. This issue has been dragged for two long and the children are being harassed more and more," she said and questioned the need for the government to continue with the process to gather public opinions.

The Minister of Constitution and Law explained the initial proposal tabled to the Parliament by the government was a result of a decision by the Court of Appeal ... But, the Parliament re-directed the Government to seek further opinions.

"We are ready to bring the bill to parliament," emphasized Dr. Ndumbaro

Deputy Minister of Community Development, Gender, Women and Special Groups, Mwanaidi Ali Khamis told the Parliament that the Child Law no. 21 of 2009, which was amended in 2019, recognizes a person under the age of 18 as a child, and it is a criminal offense to involve her in sexual relations or marriage.

The Marriage Act of 1971 allows a female child to enter into marriage at the age of 14. The Government through the Ministry of Constitution and Law has collected opinions from stakeholders about what is the right age to get married.

"The analysis of those opinions has been completed and they will be presented in the Parliament for discussion and changes to be made as Parliament deems appropriate to protect the girl child," said the Deputy Minister.

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