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Tanzania ECM country profile


What is the Prevalence rate of Child Marriage in Tanzania?  

More than 3 out of every 10 girls (31%)  in Tanzania are married before 18 years of age while up to 4% of  boys get married before 18. At 776,000, the country has the 11th highest number of women married before 18 in the world. Child marriage is highest in the following regions:  Shinyanga 59%,  Tabora 58%  and Dodoma 51% .

What drives Child Marriage in Tanzania

Poverty: Girls are exchanged for Bride price – Mahari which is used by families to to relieve the family of financial burdens. Girls in turn look at marriage as a means of earning income

Family honour: Pre-marital sex is often considered a taboo which undermines family honour and decreases the amount of dowry a girl can fetch when married. Some girls who are considered to be micharuko – “running around with men” – are forced into marriage to avoid bringing shame to families.
Adolescent pregnancy: By 2016 one in four Tanzanian adolescents aged 15-19 had begun childbearing. Society disapproves of pregnancy outside marriage, and parents tend to marry off a daughter if she is found pregnant. Girls are routinely tested for pregnancy in school, and pregnant girls are banned from re-entering school.
Country-specific practices: The practice of Nyumba ntobu involves an older, wealthier woman paying bride price for a young girl to become her wife. A man is then chosen to impregnate the girl and any children who are born belong to the older woman. According to a UN Women 2018 report, in some communities of the Shinyanga region, the practice of abduction, rape and forced marriages of young girls is very common. This practices is known with the term kupura.
Level of education: The Government’s Primary School Leaving Examination determines which students can go onto secondary school. Human Rights Watch argues that girls who fail the exam face little choice but to marry.
Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): FGM/C is linked to a desire to control female sexuality and is seen by many communities as a rite of passage to prepare girls for marriage. Other “womanhood” initiation ceremonies and dances – such as unyago, samba and chagulaga – involve a girl being trained on marital expectations when she reaches puberty.
Displacement: Burundian refugees in Tanzania live with limited resources, and years of displacement drives some refugees to marry off their daughters as a survival mechanism.
Climate change: The people in the region of Shinyanga, which has the highest prevalence rate of child marriage in Tanzania, depend on rain-fed agriculture, but climate change is turning this region dry. This seems to have lowered the living standards of rural families, who may in turn be resorting to child marriage as a negative coping mechanism.

A 2017 study cites other driving factors for child marriage in Tanzania, including a demand for house maids (in Iringa), a lack of awareness (Lindi and Mtwara) and parental force (Mara, Tabora and Shinyanga).

What is the minimum legal framework around child marriage

In July 2016, the Constitutional Court ruled that marriage under the age of 18 was illegal. In October 2019, the Supreme Court of Appeal upheld this ruling, which had been challenged by the Attorney General with the argument that it interfered with the culture of the land.

The ruling found that Tanzania’s Law of Marriage Act 1971 was unconstitutional: it allowed for boys to marry at 18 years and girls to marry at 14 with consent of the court, and at the age of 15 with parental consent. It directed the government to raise the legal age of marriage to 18 years within a year.

However, it should be noted that customary marriages are exempt from the law.

Global, International and National Commitments made by Tanzania to End Child Marriage 

Tanzania has committed to eliminate child, early and forced marriage by 2030 in line with target 5.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals. In its Voluntary National Review at the 2019 High Level Political Forum, the government did not provide an update on progress towards this target, but mentioned the advocacy work carried out by NGOs to amend section 13 and 17 of the Marriage Act, 1971, which used to allow the marriage of girls below 18 years.

Tanzania co-sponsored the 20132014 and 2018 UN General Assembly resolutions on child, early and forced marriage, and signed a joint statement at the 2014 Human Rights Council calling for a resolution on child marriage.

Tanzania ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, which sets a minimum age of marriage of 18, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1985, which obligates states to ensure free and full consent to marriage.

During its 2016 Universal Periodic Review, Tanzania supported recommendations to accelerate efforts to end child marriage.

In 2007 Tanzania ratified the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, which includes an Article related to equal and free consent in marriage.

In 2003 Tanzania ratified the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, including Article 21 regarding the prohibition of child marriage.

Tanzania is one of 20 countries which has committed to ending child marriage by the end of 2020 under the Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern Africa.

In 2019, at the Nairobi Summit on ICPD25, Tanzania committed to review the Marriage Act and key legal and institutional frameworks by 2025 to address gender inequality.

Tanzania is one of the countries where the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR)/DREAMS Initiative is working to reduce rates of HIV among adolescent girls and young women.

Tanzania is a Pathfinder country for the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children and partner country of the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).

At the London Girl Summit in July 2014, the Government of Tanzania signed a charter committing to end child marriage by 2020.

What is the government doing to end child marriage

The National Plan of Action to End Violence against Women and Children 2017/18-2021/22 addresses the need to end child marriage and set the target to reduce child marriages to 10%. In 2017, implementation plans were formed for eight regions.

The Government has been developing a National Plan of Action on FGM/C and Child Marriage, which was delayed following the 2015 general elections. As of beginning of 2020, there are no updates on the development of this National Plan of Action.

The Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children conducted a National Survey on the Drivers and Consequences of Child Marriage in 2017.

In 2014, the “Child Marriage-Free Zone” National Campaign to End Child Marriage was launched in Mara region, calling for a review of discriminatory laws and action from the health, education and legal sectors to prevent child marriage. Other regions in Tanzania are now launching similar campaigns in collaboration with UNFPA.

Gender and Children desks have been established in 417 district police stations in Tanzania, alongside a Child Helpline piloted in six regions to assist victims of violence, including child marriage. Child friendly courts and child protection committees have also been established at district and ward level.

Tanzania’s Child Development Policy (2008) acknowledges that marrying at 15 deprives a child of his or her rights.

In 2015 Parliamentarians for Global Action held a capacity building discussion on child, early and forced marriage. 40 Tanzanian MPs analysed the root causes of child marriage and shared best practice with colleagues from Malawi and Ghana.

President John Magufuli stirred up controversy in 2017 after endorsing a law dating back to the 1960s allowing state schools to expel young mothers. Over the past decade more than 55,000 Tanzanian pregnant schoolgirls have been expelled from school, according to a 2013 report by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Human rights organisations and women’s rights activists say the ban breaks international human rights conventions. It also contradicts a promise set out in the ruling party’s 2015 election manifesto, which pledged to allow pregnant school girls to continue with their studies. As of 2020, the policy remains in place.


  1. African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, [website], 2018,.
  2. African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, [website], 2018, 
  3. Center for Reproductive Rights, Forced Out: Mandatory Pregnancy Testing and the Expulsion of Pregnant Students in Tanzanian Schools, 2013
  4. Children’s Dignity Forum/FORWARD, Voices of Child Brides and Child Mothers in Tanzania: A PEER Report on Child Marriage, 2010, 
  5. Girl Summit 2014, The Girl Summit Charter on Ending FGM and Child, Early and Forced Marriage,[website], 2015
  6. Girls Not Brides, Child marriage in humanitarian settings, 2018, 
  7. Girls Not Brides, Law Is Only One of The Steps To Ending Child Marriage, Says Rebeca Gyumi Founder Of Msichana Initiative Tanzania, [website], 2016, 
  8. Girls Not Brides, Tanzania’s Supreme Court Declares Child Marriage Unconstitutional, [website], 2019, 
  9. Global Partnership for Education, Tanzania, 
  10. Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children, Tanzania
  11. Government of the United Republic of Tanzania, Child Development Policy, 2008, 
  12. Human Rights Watch, Rights Groups Press Tanzania to Drop Pregnant Students’ Ban, [website], 2019 
  13. Human Rights Watch,No Way Out, Child Marriage and Human Rights Abuses in Tanzania, 2014,  .
  14. Mail & Guardian, Tanzania: Marriages of convenience 
  15. Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, National Plan of Action to End Violence against Women and Children 2017/18-2021/22, 
  16. Ministerial Commitment on comprehensive sexuality education and sexual and reproductive health services for adolescents and young people in Eastern and Southern African.
  17. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark, Joint statement on child, early and forced marriage, HRC 27, Agenda Item 3
  18. Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Child Marriage in Tanzania at a Glance, 2017,  
  19. Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, National Survey on the Drivers and Consequences of Child Marriage in Tanzania, 2017,  
  20. Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey and Malaria Indicator Survey 2015-2016, 2016
  21. Nairobi Summit, The United Republic of Tanzania Commitment on Accelerating the ICPD Promise, [website], 2019
  22. Parliamentarians for Global Action, Capacity Building Session on Child, Early and Forced Marriage for Tanzanian Parliamentarians – Segment One, [website], 2015,  
  23. Plan International, Refugee Girls Must Not Fear Their Periods, 2017, 
  24. Plan International, Tanzania: Fighting FGM and Child Marriage, [website], undated, 
  25. Science Nordic, Jobs and paid-for schooling can keep Tanzanian girls from early marriages, [website], 2018, . 
  26. Tanzania Media Women’s Association (TAMWA) Fact Sheet. Child Marriage, 2014, .
  27. The Guardian, ‘After getting pregnant, you are done’: no more school for Tanzania’s mums-to-be, [website], 2017
  28. U.S. Department of State, United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, [website], 2019, 
  29. UN General Assembly, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review: United Republic of Tanzania, 2016, p.17. 
  30. UN Women, Multi-Country Analytical Study of Legislation, Policies, Interventions and Cultural Practices on Child Marriage in Africa, 2018, 
  31. UNFPA Tanzania, Fact Sheet: Teenage Pregnancy, 2018, 
  32. UNFPA, Combating Tanzania’s high child marriage rates, [website], 2014, 
  33. UNICEF and UNFPA, Child Marriage: A Mapping of Programmes and Partners in Twelve Countries in East and Southern Africa, 2018 
  34. United Nations, Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform, [website], 2017, 
  35. University of Jyväskylä, Causes and motives of early marriage in The Gambia and Tanzania, Is New Legislation Enough? 
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