This article was contributed by Aristarick Joseph, co-founder of Youth for Change Tanzania.
Malawi made a historic amendment to its constitution to fully outlaw child marriage following more than a year-long campaigns by youth groups and organizations. The Marriage, Divorce and Family Relations Act (Marriage Act) of 2015 became law following the President Joyce Banda’s assent, according to Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Tuesday February 14, 2017, will always be remembered as a great day for the Malawian girls after the Malawi Parliamentarians unanimously agreed to amend the Malawi Constitution, sealing the semi ban on child marriage to total child marriage ban in the country.
The lawmakers aligned the supreme law of the land with the February 2015 Marriage Law that raised the age of marriage from 15 to 18 years. The new law removes a legal loophole which has for years allowed children under the age of 18 to marry with parental consent.
Malawian Parliamentarians voted 131 to 2 in favor of removing this provision.
International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) study shows that a total of 150 million girls will be married before their 18th birthday over the next decade. That is an average of 15 million girls each year. This is what makes the Malawian government’s decision more critical especially this moment in a time.
What does the Malawi’s decision mean to Tanzania?
The 1971 Tanzania Law of Marriage Act (LMA) allows girls from the age of 14 to marry with either their parent consent or the court’s order. The Malawi’s milestone decision is a call to other governments, especially neighboring Tanzania, to #LevelTheLaw and make sure that girls are well protected by the law.
The 2016 Southern African Development Community Policy Forum (SADC-PF) developed the Model Law that has the potential to shape how the region addresses child marriage. On the same reflection, The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) the East African Community (EAC)’s law-making body on January 2017 tabled Sexual and Reproductive Health Bill, 2017, that aims at protecting girls from child marriage and keeping them in schools. With no doubt, belonging to both regional blocs, Tanzania was fully involved in both processes.
This shows how the region is committed to ending child marriage and why as Global Citizens, we have all the reasons to remind and hold the government accountable for its commitments. Malawi decisions to raise the age of marriage must be a loud alarm to Tanzanian lawmakers to quickly amend the 1971 Law of Marriage Act and to end child marriage once and for all.