Five schoolgirls were arrested in Tanzania earlier this month — because they are pregnant
But the issue is far from closed.
Last year, Tanzania’s President John Magufuli reaffirmed a 1960s-era ban on pregnant girls and teenage mothers attending state schools, Reuters reported.
“As long as I am president ... no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school,” he said. “We cannot allow this immoral behavior to permeate our primary and secondary schools.”
And in December 2017, a regional commissioner announced a plan to arrest pregnant school girls in order to force them to testify against the men who impregnated them.
Men who impregnate girls face up to 30 years in prison.
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Magufuli argued that allowing girls to attend school while pregnant or return to school after giving birth will encourage other girls to have sex and urged teen mothers to seek vocational training instead of completing their education, comments which organizations like Human Rights Watch have decried.
Mandatory pregnancy tests are common practice in many Tanzanian schools — though they are not required by law — leading to the expulsion of more than 55,000 girls between 2003 and 2013, according to the Center for Reproductive Rights.
Tanzania has one of the highest prevalences of adolescent pregnancy in the world, based on UNICEF’s data; nearly one-third of women between the ages of 20 and 24 gave birth to their children before they turned 18.
According to NGO Girls Not Brides, the country also has one of the highest child marriage rates worldwide, though its High Court ruled marriage among children below the age of 18 unconstitutional in 2016. This judgment was appealed last year and a new decision has yet to be made.
According to the United Nations Population Fund, 7.3 million babies are born to adolescent mothers every year. And though the incidence of teenage pregnancy is especially high in sub-Saharan Africa, this is a global problem. Around the world, girls are missing out on education, forced to dropout of school to enter into child marriages or bear children while they are children themselves.
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