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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

How discriminative laws put Tanzanian women in jeopardy

12th March 2012

On March 8th this year  the world marked the International Women’s Day,  to celebrate the beauty, courage, tolerance and perseverance of  creatures in charge of not only bringing new life to this world but also making sure the said life grows up to become a president, king, queen, minister, judge and all you can think of. 

No one can dismiss the fact that without these creatures, the world would have been empty. Our correspondent Rose Mwalongo discusses what Tanzania should do to write-off all discriminative laws for women’s development …

Despite the celebrations however, this very lady I prefer to call the queen of the castle has found herself bringing some weird creatures who instead of glorifying her, terrorize, beat and mutilate her while at the same time treating her as a weak creature. 

The very same creatures brought by women have at times decided to fight for power leading her to suffer as she hassles as a refugee in foreign countries trying to protect her family.  Worse still, the very creatures brought by women, have opted to use her as a shield and at times rape her during war as is the case in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the other war torn countries in the world. 

Worse still, the very same creatures end up beating, and chopping off her hands or fingers and not to mention of killing the very same mom who has brought them up.  The list is endless, of what befalls women on a daily basis.  For even as I write here, somewhere in this world there is a lady dying from severe beatings from a spouse or partner.

The stories above may seem like fiction but they are very valid in most of the countries, and Tanzania is no exception despite making a great stride to ensure her girls and women are educated and given the posts that were once a nightmare for them. Women’s lives in the country remain in shadows due to the existence of discriminative laws

A report on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by SAHRINGON Tanzania Chapter mentions some of the bad laws as the Customary Law Declaration Order; of 1963   due to prohibiting widows from inheriting land from the deceased husband. 

In other words, women in rural areas remain the sufferers in all this as their livelihood depends upon land to survive.  Land is everything as it makes them get food and subsistence for sell, yet once the spouse is gone, they are forced to leave to an unknown destination.  The laws of the country do not favour them and no wonder, these women remain and die poor as a result.

This law however, is not the only bad one, for despite the government’s efforts to educate the girl child, some parents in rural areas use the loopholes provided to them by the discriminative laws to marry off their daughters against their will.

Girls are forced into marriage at a tender age of up to 14 years to earn their fathers’ dowry, which denies them the right to education.

The Law of the Marriage Act 1971 allows marriage of young girls below 15 years.

This law is contradictory to the Law of the Child Act 2009 which identifies a child as any person below the age of 18, meaning the Marriage Act 1971 condones marriage to minors.

Activists in the country have in recent years raised concern over the prevalence of discriminative laws in the country’s books calling upon the need to review them.

In 2010, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC) in collaboration with other civil societies identified 4 discriminative laws which are still in the country’s books.

Among them is  the Law of Marriage Act, Cap.29 [R.E 2002) under sections 13 which states  that a woman can get married at the age of 14 and 15 upon leave of the court while as section 17  of the same law allows marriage  under parents’ consent  in case the girl has not attained apparent age of 18.

Perhaps it is about time our legislators reviewed these  laws as they have been a bad song in our ears for sometimes now if at all  the country wants to achieve the MDGs to which we ledged to achieve its goals.

The MDGS, as sets of development milestones were formulated during the United Nations Millennium Summit 2000 to address some of the most common social-economic issues in world.

The 8 MDGs are eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; achievement of universal primary education; promotion of gender equality and empowerment of women.

Others are reduction of child mortality; improvement of maternal health, combating HIV and Aids, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and development of global partnership for development.

Perhaps it is wise to note however that a woman falls under all the above groups as a mother, sister and caretaker of the sick just to mention a few.

If we are to assess based on the MDGs, then we will find out that the progress we see is mainly in urban areas where the elites and educated women can speak up for their rights.   Our government has for sure built a lot of primary and secondary schools as well as health centers but the laws in place hinder a girl child from excelling.  

As we marked the International Women’s Day last week, let us now fight for our lawmakers to repeal all the bad laws which discriminate a woman and a girl child.   Let no one mistreat women and girls for by so doing they are mistreating their own mothers, daughters and sisters.

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