Marriage is essentially a blessed institution, but its place in society is gravely compromised by people, mostly greedy men, who have turned their daughters into commodities for sale in which, by and large, livestock is the currency.
Historically, in most cultures, married women had very few rights of their own, being considered, along with the family’s children, the property of the husband; as such, they could not own or inherit property, or represent themselves legally.
Particularly notorious are pastoral communities in Tanzania and various countries of my continent, where the voices of women – as wives and mothers – are muted or ignored. The vocal ones are scolded and viciously beaten.
Due to forced marriage and lack of parental care or community support & protection, girls have been reported to commit suicide; run away from their own families; end up becoming street children, others are sexually abused when found in desperate conditions; get employed while at very tender age (child labor); the girls drop out of school mid-away and become subservient wives who toil. It is a thankless life.
Against this background, such practices can be outlawed and penalized in parts of the African educated communities mostly in urban area out of concerns for human rights and because of international law
As a young African girl, I salute the leadership of Tanzania and United Nations for initiating a strategy to pin down perpetrators of the practice and ensure they face the music-in the law courts.
The initiative should be replicated nationwide and carried out with missionary zeal. This practice, which is out of step with the modern way of life, denies girls the benefit of academic education and vocational skills.
Only when perpetrator face the music will potential abusers feel threatened enough to withdraw – and the girls’ dignity as well as the sanctity of marriage will be guaranteed.
With respect to human rights and women/girl child freedom; I urge my fellow youth in all communities to stand united against all barbaric culture and traditions; After all “Forced Marriage is ABUSE not even a CULTURE!” Any legal, social, emotional, financial, spiritual, and religious factor shouldn’t be used as an excuse to violate human rights or abuse our mothers and sisters. It is time to say NO to any sense of arranged marriage, child marriage and forced marriage!
My advice to adults: “Why don’t you wait for the girls to finish their studies so you can got more cows and in fact she would be able to give you the cows herself!”
- This article is written by Baraka Julius Mdeme, representing the South-North Youth Panel of Tanzania. The Youth Panel of Tanzania collaborates with Ungdomspanelet exchanging persepctives from youth in both Tanzania and Norway.