A TUSSLE over the legal age of marriage resurfaced in the National Assembly here again yesterday, with the government saying “legal anthropology” could be the best way to seek a lasting solution to the current challenges.
Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Prof Palamagamba Kabudi warned that it was dangerous to enforce laws in areas where you could provide education and create awareness to change the behaviour and attitude of any given society.
He was responding to a supplementary question by Mwita Waitara (Ukonga- -CHADEMA), who demanded to know why the government was dragging its feet in ‘approving’ a landmark court ruling, raising to 18 the legal age of marriage for girls in Tanzania.
Tanzania’s High Court ruled last year that two sections of the 1971 Marriage Act that allow girls to marry at 15 with parental consent and 14 with the permission of a court, were unconstitutional.
And, Waitara said: “Marriage under the age of 14 was unacceptable but the Attorney General (AG) is telling this House that the government appealed against the High Court ruling, issuing a notice of injunction, and the court ruling has since stalled, this brings us to total confusion.
“Why should the minister not consider tabling a bill here, so that the MPs could debate and ultimately approve the High Court ruling be enforced,” he queried. Prof Kabudi said fixing the problem could not be done in the legal framework alone, but rather it should consider other solutions including applying legal anthropology.
This, he said, was because the problem in large part is deep-rooted in customs and traditions, as well as economic and religious factors. He said it was important to study various aspects of the communities involved in the issue related to child marriage, understand their culture, values, beliefs and norms and issues that affect social life and then the society should step in to provide required education on behavioral change.
He insisted that the communities should be educated about refraining from harmful practices. Songwe Legislator, Dr Philip Mulugo (CCM) had also asked the minister if the government was ready to allow Parliament to form its own Law Reform Committee, which would then work closely with that of the government to come up with Written Law Miscellaneous Amendments, which could help repel bad laws including the 1971 Marriage Act, which allows girls to be married under the age of 14.
Responding, Pro Kabudi said a suggestion for Bunge to form its own Law Reform Committee was out of his jurisdiction but said the Marriage Act of 1974 was approved to fulfill the customary demands of Maasai and Bohora Communities. However, he insisted efforts were still ongoing to amend the main piece of legislation that governs marital affairs in the country.
In his basic question, Mulugo had asked the ministry that for the past decade several laws have been rendered useless and outdated because of the changing pace of technological advancement and development. He wanted to know, when the government will consider amending these laws.
Responding minister Kabudi said in 1980, the government established the Law Reform Committee, specifically to review the existing laws in order to ensure they meet the requirement of the communities at any given time.