Tanzania - The Law of Marriage Act, 1971, as amended by Act 23/73, Act 15/80 and Act 9/96 - Equality Now
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Tanzania - The Law of Marriage Act, 1971, as amended by Act 23/73, Act 15/80 and Act 9/96

Sections 10(2), 13(1) and 15 of Tanzania’s Law of Marriage Act of 1971 allow men to contract polygamous marriages, and permit the marriage of 15-year-old girls, while the minimum age of marriage for boys is 18.

UPDATE: On October 23, 2019, the Tanzania Court of Appeal upheld the landmark 2016 ruling by the High Court against child marriage. The High Court ruled that marriage under the age of 18 was illegal and directed the government to raise the minimum age of marriage to 18 for both boys and girls within one year. We must continue to apply pressure to ensure that the Government of Tanzania complies with this important ruling and truly puts an end to child marriage in the country.

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The Law of Marriage Act, CAP 29 [R:E 2019]

  • Country: Tanzania
  • Law status: Discriminatory law in force
  • Law Type: Marriage, Divorce, Polygamy & Wife Obedience

When young girls are forced to marry, they face potentially lifelong harmful consequences. They  are essentially subject to state-sanctioned rape and are at risk of increased domestic violence, forced pregnancy and negative health consequences, while being denied education and economic opportunity.

Sections 10(2), 13(1) and 15 of Tanzania’s Law of Marriage Act of 1971 allow men to contract polygamous marriages, and permit the marriage of 15-year-old girls, while the minimum age of marriage for boys is 18.

Section 10. Kinds of Marriage.

. . .
(2) A marriage contracted in Tanzania, whether contracted before or after the commencement of this Act shall —

(a) if contracted in Islamic form or according to rites recognized by customary law in Tanzania, be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, to be polygamous or potentially polygamous; and
(b) in any other case, be presumed to be monogamous, unless the contrary is proved.

Section 13. Minimum Age.

(1) No person shall marry who, being male has not attained the apparent age of eighteen years, or being female, has not attained the apparent age of fifteen years.

Section 15. Subsisting Marriage.

(1) No man, while married by a monogamous marriage, shall contract another marriage.
(2) No man, while married by a polygamous or potentially polygamous marriage, shall contract a marriage in any monogamous form with any person.
(3) No woman who is married shall, while that marriage subsists, contract another marriage.

Link to full law

Note:

Update: On 8 July 2016, the High Court of Tanzania took steps to end child marriage for Tanzanian girls. In its decision, the Court ruled that Sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act were unconstitutional and directed the government to change the law within one year so that the minimum age of marriage for girls is 18 years -- the same as for Tanzanian boys. 

In Rebeca Z. Gyumi v. Attorney General, the High Court of Tanzania in 2016 found section 13 of the Law of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. The Court’s opinion reads:

...we have no option but to find that the two provisions i.e. sections 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act, Cap 29 RE 2002 are unconstitutional to the extent explained herein above. Consequently, exercising the powers vested in this court by Articles 30(5) and 13(2) of the Constitution and the Basic Rights and Duties Enforcement Act respectively, we direct the Government through the Attorney General within a period of one (1) year from the date of this order to correct the complained anomalies within the provisions of section 13 and 17 of the Law of Marriage Act and in lieu thereof put 18 years as the eligible age for marriage in respect of both boys and girls.

The appeal against the ruling filed by the Attorney General was dismissed by the Court of Appeal in October 2019.   The Government now needs to implement the decision of the High Court and rectify the inequality in the law.

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Article 13(1) of the Constitution of Tanzania: All persons are equal before the law and are entitled, without any discrimination, to protection and equality before the law.

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