Tanzania: Factors Leading to Early Marriages in Mara Identified

Musoma — INSTITUTIONS attending an early marriage forum here have pointed out traditional norms and poverty as factors leading to early marriages in Mara Region, whereby parents marry off their children to well-off people for financial gain.

The forum, which was organised with the support of an international organisation, Terre des Hommes and held here recently, drew 60 participants including researchers, non-governmental organisations, judiciary, the police’s gender and children desk, community elders and government leaders.

“Child marriage in Tanzania is legal, as the Law of Marriage Act (1971) allows boys to marry at 18 and girls to marry at 15 or at 14 if courts approve their request,” said Mr Donald Kasongi, a forum facilitator.

Mr Kasongi told the ‘Daily News’ that, under the law, girls under 18 years of age need their parents’ permission to marry, but that does not in any way protect a girl from an early marriage. The current legality of child marriages makes the challenge of ending them particularly difficult.

He said the problem is that parents practically sell their children to well-off people with aim of obtaining a big sum of money. The forum participants suggested a number of solutions to the problem, including offering comprehensive education to the community.

The forum also suggested closer collaboration among non-governmental organisations and faith-based organisations (FBOs). It was also suggested that youths should be given life skills education on sexual and reproductive health, besides parents taking the responsibility of raising their children instead of selling them off through early marriage.

Terre des Hommes Netherlands opened its operational office in East Africa July, 1993 and was officially registered in June 2004 as an international non-governmental organisation (NGO), with its coordination board based in Kenya.

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