Human Rights Watch Urges Tanzania to End Child Marriage

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Human Rights Watch urges Tanzania to set 18 as the minimum marriage age, warning that girls forced into marrige may experience domestic violence and marital rape.

MOSCOW, October 29 (RIA Novosti) — Tanzania should set 18 as the minimum marriage age, battle sexual violence and end the exclusion of married and pregnant girls from school, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday in a report addressed to the country's authorities and the United Nations.

"By permitting child marriage, the government becomes responsible for the serious harms suffered by girls and women, thus violating many human rights recognized under international law. Girls married as children are usually unable to continue with their schooling and consequently have limited wage-earning prospects due to their lack of education. Girls may experience domestic violence and marital rape, and receive little or no support during their marriages or when they leave," the organization wrote.

According to the 75-page report, four in 10 girls in Tanzania are married before the age of 18. The organization said that it had recorded cases in which girls as young as seven were forced into marriage.

"Child marriage is deeply embedded in Tanzanian society. In many cultures in Tanzania, girls are generally considered ready for marriage when they reach puberty and marriage is viewed as a way to protect them from pre-marital sex and pregnancy that undermine family honor and may decrease the amount of dowry a family may receive," the report reads.

HRW stated that "a key incentive" for families to marry off their daughters is the practice of dowry payment. The organization also noted that female genital mutilation is "closely related to child marriage and is done primarily as a rite of passage to prepare girls for marriage".

According to the organization, Tanzania lacks a uniform minimum marriage age. The country's marriage act of 1971 sets a minimum marriage age of 18 for boys and 15 for girls with parental consent, although both boys and girls can legally marry at the age of 14 with a court's consent.

The issue of child marriage gained global attention earlier in October as the Norwegian "Stop the Marriage" campaign went viral. The campaign, launched by aid organization Plan, included the creation of a blog seemingly written by a Norwegian 12-year-old bride-to-be, and the staging of a public wedding ceremony where the girl was to marry a 37-year-old man. Several hundred people gathered to demonstrate outside the church where the "wedding" was to take place and the campaign spread like wildfire across social media.

According to UNICEF, more than 700 million women worldwide were married before their 18 birthday. More than one in three of these were married off before the age of 15. In 2013, the United Nations estimated that more than 140 million girls would become child brides between 2011 and 2020.

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