Photo credit: DFID
Child marriage rates
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 15
UNICEF 2016 % Married by 18
* Child marriage prevalence is the percentage of women 20-24 years old who were married or in union before they were 18 years old.
* According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2016.
Tanzania has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world. Almost two out of five girls in Tanzania are married before their 18th birthday.
Due to inaccurate birth and marriage records, it is difficult to record exact figures of child marriage in Tanzania. Yet child marriage is particularly prevalent in rural areas where children get married as early as 11 years old.
Some girls are forced to get married young to generate an income, or mahari (dowry), which can then be used by their brothers to secure a wife.
There is also a practice known as Nyumba ntobu which involves an older, wealthier woman paying a bride price for a young girl to become her wife. A man is then chosen to impregnate the girl and any children who are born belong to the older woman.
Human Rights Watch has highlighted that the Tanzanian government’s Primary School Leaving Examination, which determines which pupils may continue on to secondary school, exposes girls to child marriage.
Adolescent girls are sometimes forced to marry after failing the exam, whilst mandatory pregnancy tests and expelling pregnant and married girls from school also violates girls’ rights.
Legal age of marriage
The Law of Marriage Act (1971) allows for boys to marry at 18 and girls to marry at 14, with parental consent.
In July 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that marriage under the age of 18 was illegal, and stated that sections 13 and 17 of the Marriage Act were unconstitutional. This landmark ruling was the result of a petition by Mischana Initiative, a Girls Not Brides member. The government has one year to update its laws. However, an appeal has since been filed.
In August 2014, the “Child Marriage-Free Zone” national campaign to end child marriage was launched. It called for the review of discriminatory laws and renewed action in the health, education and legal sectors to prevent child marriage.
The campaign was initiated by the Ministry of Community Development, Gender and Children, in partnership with UNFPA Tanzania, the Graca Machel Trust, the Children’s Dignity Forum and the Tanzania Media Women Association.
Members In Tanzania
- African Initiatives
- Amref Health Africa
- Children’s Dignity Forum
- Disability Foundation Tanzania
- Fighting Against Development Constraints Association (FADECA)
- Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE)
- Future for Marginalized Community (FUMACO)
- Hope 4 Young Girls Tanzania
- Kiota for Women’s Health and Development
- Morogoro Saving the Poor Organization
- Oasis for Orphans
- Plan International
- Priority for Entrepreneurship Network Tanzania (PEN)
- Regional Psychosocial Support Initiative (REPSSI)
- Tanzania Support for Women Rights (TASUWORI)
- VSO International
- World YWCA
- UNICEF, State of the World’s Children, 2016
- UNFPA, Marrying too young: End child marriage in Tanzania, 2013
- Tamar Ezer, Child Marriage and Guardianship in Tanzania, Georgetown Journal of Gender and the Law
- Children’s Dignity Forum, FORWARD, Voices of child brides and child mothers in Tanzania, 2010
- Human Rights Watch, “No Way Out”, Child Marriage and Human Rights In Tanzania, 2014