Child brides in Tanzania miss out on education and risk violence and rape says report

Child marriage in Tanzania is seriously limiting girls' access to education and exposing them to violence, rape and exploitation.

That's the finding of a report by Human Rights Watch, which interviewed scores of girls, local activists, NGOs and government officials.

Four out of 10 girls in Tanzania are married before their 18th birthday and they are often pulled out of school. Human Rights Watch documented cases in which girls as young as seven were married.

The 75-page report – 'No Way Out’: Child Marriage and Human Rights Abuses in Tanzania – also found that girls who became pregnant or married were frequently expelled from school.

Human Rights Watch added: “Girls who rejected or tried to resist marriage were assaulted, verbally abused or evicted from their homes by their families. Others, who were unable to escape marriage, described how their husbands beat and raped them and did not allow them to make any decisions in their homes. In Tanzania, there is almost no accountability for victims of violence related to child marriage and marital rape is not criminalised.”

One interviewee called Sharon J. told how she was expelled when she was in her final year of primary school. She said: “When the head teacher found out that I was pregnant, he called me to his office and told me ‘You have to leave our school immediately because you are pregnant'.”

Girls told Human Rights Watch their families forced them to marry so they could get dowry payments, because they did not value their daughters’ education, the girls were pregnant or their families feared that they would become pregnant and bring dishonour to the family. Other girls said they saw marriage as a way out of poverty, violence, neglect or child labour.

Nineteen-year-old Anita’s father forced her to marry at 16, during her second year of secondary school. She said: “My father said he did not have money to support my schooling. I then discovered that he had already received 20 cows as dowry for me.”

Brenda Akia, women’s rights research fellow at Human Rights Watch, is the author of the report. She said: “Tanzania’s draft constitution unfortunately provides no minimum age for marriage. The Tanzanian government should show leadership on child marriage by making 18 the minimum age in the Marriage Act and providing stronger protections against child marriage.”

Human Rights Watch has also called for the Tanzanian government to end pregnancy testing in schools and allow both pregnant and married students to remain in education.

Child marriage is one of the 100-day themes of the #EducationCountdown. You can read more about the campaign here.