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“Changing the law is not the ultimate end to child marriage” in Tanzania, says Activist

If Tanzania capitalized on the momentum of the ruling, in 20 to 30 years it should be possible to reduce the number of girls being married off early

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FILE - A woman protests against underage marriages in Lagos, Nigeria, July 20, 2013. The African Union is to convene a summit in Zambia this week with a view to ending child marriage. VOA
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London, November 4, 2016: An activist whose petition earlier this year triggered a Tanzanian high court ruling against child marriage said social transformation was needed to end the longstanding custom many families use as a “survival system.”

“Changing the law is not the ultimate end to child marriage,” said Rebeca Gyumi, founder of the Msichana Initiative, a Tanzanian charity promoting girls’ rights. “Changing mindsets and trying to trigger the shift of customs and traditions is the next thing we are planning to do,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in London.

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The High Court of Tanzania ruled in July that two sections of the 1971 Marriage Act, which allow girls to marry at 15 with parental consent and at 14 with the permission of a court, were unconstitutional.

The landmark ruling, effectively raising the legal age of marriage for girls to 18, was made in response to a petition by Gyumi who argued that the act violated girls’ rights to equality, dignity and access to education, as granted by the constitution.

Attitudes must change

The real challenge is to shift attitudes in communities where parents marry off their daughters so their sons can to go to school or to ease the economic burden on their families, Gyumi said.

“The issue is deep-rooted in a male-dominated, patriarchal system where a girl child is not really treated as an equal person,” she said in an interview.

She described child marriage as “a sort of a survival system” in a society where poverty is entrenched. “Sometimes parents see marrying their kids as the only solution to the issues they have,” she added.

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Tanzania has one of the highest rates of child marriage globally, with nearly 2 in 5 girls getting married before their 18th birthday, according to campaign group Girls Not Brides. It says the practice is particularly prevalent in rural areas where girls as young as 11 are married.

Child marriage deprives girls of education and opportunities, and puts them at risk of serious injury or death if they have children before their bodies are ready. They are also more vulnerable to domestic and sexual violence.

Gyumi said if Tanzania capitalized on the momentum of the ruling, in 20 to 30 years it should be possible to reduce the number of girls being married off early.

Men must be involved

“We have to change the story from Tanzania being among the countries with the highest percentage of child marriages to being the country that really tries to solve the issue by changing the law and educating the community,” she said.

Gyumi said men’s involvement was essential for the campaign against child marriage to be successful.

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“Sometimes it’s not just about what you’re saying but who is saying it. Women alone can’t win this war.” Each year more than 15 million girls worldwide are married before they turn 18, Girls Not Brides says.

In June, the U.N. Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling for an end to child, early and forced marriage, and recognizing child marriage as a violation of human rights.

Ending child marriage by 2030 is one of the targets contained in the new Sustainable Development Goals adopted by world leaders at a U.N. summit last year. (VOA)

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International Girl Child Day: Celebrating Birth of a Girl Child

International Girls day is celebrated every year on 11th October in order to give the girl child the respect and dignity she deserves.

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International Girl Child Day
On this International Girl Child Day, let’s be a part of a world which celebrates the girl child and let’s do our bit in making the world a better place. Maxpixel

International Girl Child Day has been declared by the United Nations on the 11th October every year in order to celebrate the importance of the girl child. On the occasion of International Girl Child Day, let’s help to spread awareness about the various problems faced by the girl child.

Perception 

The common perception of any society, sees girls are often considered to be inferior to boys. Discrimination against girls is unchecked, Due to fear of exploitation, they are not sent to schools and denied the right to a decent education.

Due to fear of exploitation parents do not send girl child to schools. Pixabay

Female Foeticide

Female Foeticide is an issue which is prevalent in the urban and mostly in the rural areas. People who are ill-informed believe that a girl child is inferior to a boy and thus will not be able to help the family in any way other than increasing the burden of feeding another mouth on them.

Save a Girl Child and protect a woman’s Dignity.

 

Child Marriage

Child marriage is another important issue because of which girls are forced to drop out from their education at a very early age.  India has the highest number of girls forced into marriage under the legal age of 18 accounting for 10 million child brides in the world.

It accounts for more than 70000 deaths each year relating to maternal deaths from pregnancy and childbirth. They also become victims of domestic abuse and the dowry system.

In some parts of the country, family marries off the girl in early age in order to save their economic burden. The reason for child marriage being so prevalent even today lies in the dowry system practised by a large portion of the educated lot.

A 16-year-old girl stands inside a protection home on the outskirts of New Delhi, Nov. 9, 2012. She was rescued by Bachpan Bachao Andolan (Save the Childhood Movement), a charity which rescues victims of bonded labor. voa

Girl Child Health

In the rural areas, the health facilities are not very developed. If there is a choice between the girl and boy, most of the people will make sure that the boy remains healthy in the hope of him supporting the family in future. Health facilities are the basic amenities of life and are meant to be used by everybody equally. In India, several girl children die of malnutrition and diseases before the age of 6.  Higher rates of child marriage lead to maternity deaths arising from complications in pregnancy and giving birth and it also increases the chances of the stillborn infant.

Girl Child Trafficking

Girl child trafficking is the defined as the trade any girl child under the age of 18 for the purpose of exploitation whether inside or outside the country.  According to the National Crime Record Bureau, one child disappears in every eight minutes. Mostly these children are underage girls. They are taken from their homes and sold in the market for the purpose of begging, labor, and sexual exploitation.  Sometimes it is their own family members who sell them for the need of money or just because they think she is a burden.

Child Marriage
According to the National Crime Record Bureau, one child disappears in every eight minutes. Wikimedia

On this International Girl Child Day, let us be a part of a world which celebrates the girl child and do our bit in making the world a better place.  A very much needed change in the society is the change in the attitude of the people. They should understand the fact that girls are equal to boys in all aspects and should be given equal respect and liberty.

The childhood of a girl can be preserved if we as a society come together and make sure she is nurtured, cherished, protected and should be given freedom to choose her life the way she wants to live.

(The facts were first published by CRY ).