Tanzania and Gambia have made it illegal for girls and boys who are younger than 18 to marry as both countries have outlawed child marriage. In a landmark decision, the Tanzanian High Court on Friday, July 8, ruled in favour of protecting girls from the harms of early marriage.
The court ruled unconstitutional section 13 and 17 of the 1971 Tanzania Law of Marriage Act, which allows girls to marry at age 15 with parental permission and at age 14 with the permission of a court.
In Tanzania, where the rate of child marriage is around 37 per cent – one of the highest in the world – the move represents a “critical step forward” according to Human Rights Watch. In Gambia, where around 30 per cent of girls are married underage, President Yahya Jammeh announced on Wednesday, July 6:
“As from today, child marriage below 18 years is illegal in the Gambia…If you want to know whether what I am saying is true or not, try it tomorrow and see.”
His wife, Madam Zineb Jammeh, has also voiced her strong support for banning child marriage.
“We can’t afford to allow child marriage to hold back our beautiful girls any longer,” she said in June. “Eliminating child marriages should be our priority, to allow young girls to develop and contribute to development.