The 21-year-old student, who gave her name only as Ms O, is one of a handful of people in Tanzania who are risking their livelihoods to defend minors’ rights. They are also using a loathsome, often, brutal tactic of begging local authorities to annul a marriage in an effort to get their lives back.
Marriage ceremonies are widely viewed as solemnized abortions — contracted with only the best interests of the girl in mind. Women are left with no choice but to shoulder the burden of a marriage that they were not initially qualified to seal. That is at odds with local laws that require one to be over 18. Women who marry against their will are at risk of physical and mental abuse. They can be falsely imprisoned or forced to marry again without any means of compensation.
While there has long been a law to prohibit forced marriage in Tanzania, activists say that it is enforced on a paper basis, and that domestic violence is common in the community. Ms O takes only a modest salary working in an Orphanage in the Tanzania capital, Dar es Salaam. Now Ms O and others like her are trying to get the authorities to act. To do so, they are relying on a loathsome tactic that centers on begging officials.
Consider the case of Ms O. She was arrested two years ago for violating an age limit and is on trial for forced marriage. She and five others are trying to help out with this dangerous, and effective, technique: they are now soliciting Tanzanian lawmakers to give them retroactive marriage penalties for people under 18 who wed. They recently got one of their members of parliament to sponsor a bill that would impose prison terms for forced marriage of minors, but the Justice Ministry has repeatedly said it will not change the legal age.
“It is obviously not easy,” said Deborah Rianda, a Tanzanian activist and activist, who is one of the activists who is spearheading this project. “Marriage is a system and we know people get married even after legal ages and never would they do so on their own.”
She is correct: In fact, a girl as young as 14 who marries out of wedlock is seen as being an adult. These marriages are also more likely to result in domestic violence than opposite-sex marriages, according to government statistics.
Ms Rianda can understand why state officials will not pass laws so strict that a man could be imprisoned for marrying a 14-year-old girl. “We have to balance,” she said. “What we are asking for is not against any of the principles.”
But Ms Rianda and her colleagues remain hopeful, knowing that campaigning for child marriage annulments will never be easy. In 2014, a young woman was sentenced to 15 years in prison for trying to help others of her age escape an arranged marriage. She recently tweeted, “I know this kind of thing will have consequences. But I just want a second chance to have a real life. It is my second chance.”
Read the full story at The Telegraph.
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