The government of Tanzania has reiterated its willingness to challenge the ruling of the High Court, which ruled against all provisions in the Law of Marriage Act, 1971, which allows a girl under 18 years old to get married albeit with her parent’s consent.
Delivering her judgement, following the case brought before the court by Ms. Rebecca Gyumi, the founder and director of Children’s Rights Organisation (Msichana Initiative), Judge Ataulwa Munisi stated that sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act, 1971 were unconstitutional. She argued that the two sections breached Articles 12, 13 and 18 of the Constitution of Tanzania, which protect gender discrimination and give equality before the law. Judge Munisi argued further that a girl of 14 years old is not only vulnerable; she still does not know or understand fully the challenges (socially, physically, psychologically, financially etc.) which she might encounter in an early marriage. Furthermore, it is clearly discriminatory, according to Judge Munisi, for the law to stipulate that a male person could only marry when he is aged 18 years, while the same law allows a girl-child to be married at 14 years old, although with her parent’s consent. With the contradictions in mind, Judge Munisi had little problems to agree with Ms. Rebecca Gyumi’s contention of sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act, 1971.
Interestingly, the government through the Attorney General immediately filed a notice of appeal against the ruling of the High Court.
Question: Should a girl-child under 18 years be allowed to marry irrespective of the obvious challenges facing her in the marriage, while according to the same constitution, a male person could only marry when he is aged 18 years? If yes/ No, Why?