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Tanzania’s Supreme Court declares child marriage unconstitutional

Photo: "Wooden gavel and flag of Tanzania" by Marco Verch / CC by 2.0

Girls’ rights to be girls, not brides took a step forward in Tanzania t­­his week.

In a landmark ruling, Tanzania’s Supreme Court of Appeal has upheld a 2016 ruling banning parents from marrying off girls as young as 14.

The previous ruling found that Tanzania’s marriage act was unconstitutional. It directed the government to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 years within a year. However this was challenged by the Attorney General with the argument that it interfered with the culture of the land.

Yvette Kathurima Muhia, Head of Africa Engagement at Girls Not Brides: The Global Partnership to End Child Marriage said, “We welcome the Supreme Court’s ruling, which is an encouraging step towards addressing child marriage in a country where 3 in 10 girls become child brides. This underlines the importance of the courts as a structure to uphold the rule of law and in this case, the rights of girls in Tanzania.

“However, laws alone won’t end child marriage. While laws and policies are essential in preventing child marriage, we also need to change the attitudes that make it acceptable in the first place,” she said.

We congratulate everybody involved in this historic achievement, especially Rebeca Gyumi. Her tireless work as founder of Msichana Initiative was instrumental in pushing this ruling through.