Tanzania is ready to come down hard on anyone found guilty of marrying or impregnating students. Last week, the Parliament endorsed the Written Laws Miscellaneous Act (No. 2) Bill, 2016 to, among other issues, impose a jail sentence of 30 years to persons who will marry or impregnate primary and secondary school pupils and students.
The penalty is not a new one in the country, considering provisions had been made for it in the country’s Penal Code, but Tanzania possessed an Education Act which offered a way to skirt the heavy penalty, in favor of lighter ones.
Tanzania’s Education Act, Cap 353, provided a penalty of Sh500,000 or a three-year jail term for offenders. With the Written Laws Miscellaneous Act (No. 2) Act of 2016 however, the Education Act has been amended to provide stiffer penalties for those who will marry or impregnate primary and secondary school pupils and students while those assisting the offence will also face stiffer consequences.
In essence, the penalty for impregnating students now covers all girls, whether they are in school or out of school. Along with that stiff penalty, a five-year jail term or a Sh5 million fine will be applied to persons who will facilitate, persuade or take part in a move to marry off a primary or secondary school pupil or student.
Ms Esther Mmasi who allegedly quoted data produced by Amnesty International, said Tanzania produces 16 child marriages every day, making the new penalties, very needed. She said that the law has come at the right time and it would also be vital to review other legislative pieces that defeat the government’s intention of ensuring that all girls complete their primary and secondary schooling without hindrances.
Some examples of those laws that she referred to are; the Marriage Act (CAP 29 R.E 2002) Sections 13 and 17. Section 13 allows a girl child to get married at the age of 14 after the approval of the Court of Law while Section 17 leaves a loophole to a girl child to get married at the age of 15 so long as the marriage has the parents’ blessings.
The Written Laws Miscellaneous Act (No. 2) Act of 2016 covers a total of 21 laws now only awaits President Magufuli’s signature. Hopefully the laws and attached stiffer penalties will serve their purpose as a deterrent to child marriages and impregnating students in Tanzania.