Dar es Salaam — United Nation Children’s Fund (Unicef) has described the decision by the court of appeal to quash an appeal by the government seeking to allow earlier marriage as ‘a huge victory to girls’.
Unicef tweeted, “a huge victory for #girls in #Tanzania! The Court of Appeal of TZ has upheld the landmark 2016 ruling by High Court of TZ which increased the min age of marriage for girls & boys from 14 &15 yrs respectively to 18 yrs.”
In the tweet Unicef commended a founder of the Msichana initiative, who opened the petition at the high court.
In its ruling the Court of Appeal said marriage under the age of 18 was unconstitutional, ending a long legal battle between child rights activists and the government. In the latest development, the Court of Appeal has upheld the landmark 2016 ruling by the High Court.
Two years ago, the High Court of Tanzania struck out the Sections 13 and 17 of the Marriage Act that allowed girls to marry at the age of 14 and 15, and then 18 years for boys.
The court ruled that marriage under the age of 18 was illegal and directed the government to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 for both boys and girls within one year. This came after a girls’ rights advocate, Ms Rebecca Gyumi, petitioned the Act at the Dar es Salaam High Court.
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However, in a move that attracted criticism from activists and a section of the general public, the government, through the Attorney General, appealed against the High Court ruling for raising the marriage age for girls from 15 to 18.
Activists expressed disappointment at the government’s decision to appeal against the ruling which was expected to reduce the high rate at which girls were married before the age of 18 in the country.
The case had been dragging on until yesterday, when the Court of Appeal in Dar es Salaam upheld the High Court’s earlier decision on constitutionality of child marriages, in which case the government lost the appeal. Judge Augustine Mwarija, leading a panel of two other judges, Winfrida Korosso and Dr Mary Lavira, made the ruling after hearing in which the judges found the government’s appeal unconvincing.
In the case, Ms Gyumi was represented by four lawyers Mr Mpale Mpoki, Mr Jebra Kambole, Mr Alex Mgongolwa and Mr Fulgence Massawe.
Ms Gyumi said the ruling was an indication that the rights of the girl child will now be protected and the judges indeed stood for justice.
“This ruling offers the legal protection that all girls in Tanzania were missing. What’s remaining is only ensuring that the court’s order is executed within one year as it was initially decided by the High Court,” she said. She said that it was now an opportunity to continue advocating the rights of girls in Tanzania and calling for a dialogue with Parliamentary Committees in efforts to ensure that a bill is tabled in Parliament and the law is amended.
The laws, which had been deemed outdated, allowed girls to marry at the age of 14 with the consent of the court, and from the age of 15 with the consent of their parents.
Until hearing by the Court of Appeal, the July 8, 2016 ruling has allowed both boys and girls to enjoy their teenage years and perpetrators jailed to end child marriage in the country where 37 per cent of girls are married before the age of 18.
Source link : https://allafrica.com/stories/201910250135.html
Publish date : 2019-10-25 08:17:35