(Updated 03.31.22) On November 22, 2021, the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partner in Tanzania, Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), presented arguments before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) in a case that aims to end the discriminatory practice of barring pregnant girls and adolescent mothers from school. The hearing was finalized on March 29, 2022 following the interaction between the Committee and the minors who submitted evidence in the case.
The lawsuit argues that Tanzania’s policies – which include mandatory pregnancy testing, expulsion of pregnant and married girls, denial of an education post-childbirth, illegal detention of pregnant girls, and the lack of access to reproductive and sexual health information and services in schools – discriminate against women and girls by preventing them from continuing their education.
Human Rights Watch estimates that 15,000 girls in Tanzania drop out of school annually due to pregnancy. Tanzania also has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world, with 37% of girls marrying before the age of 18, which automatically subjects them to school expulsions based on nationwide school policy.
The Center and LHRC filed a lawsuit in 2019 to challenge the government’s human rights and gender equality violations against Tanzanian schoolgirls. The case, Legal and Human Rights Centre and the Center for Reproductive Rights (on behalf of Tanzanian Girls) against the United Republic of Tanzania, was brought on behalf of six Tanzanian schoolgirls who were expelled from school for being pregnant.
For years, the Tanzanian government has forced public school girls to undergo pregnancy testing and has permanently expelled them if pregnant. These practices are at the center of this case, because they deny girls the opportunity to complete their education and pursue their personal and professional goals.
The Center and LHRC argue that these regressive policies impede Tanzanian girls’ right to education and are in violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and other international and regional human rights instruments ratified by the country.
The case also ties to the Africa Union Agenda 2063 which prioritizes education and empowerment of women and girls while addressing any form of discrimination against them. The Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) also advocates for the elimination of gender disparities in education and provides that all girls and boys should have equal opportunity to enjoy education of high quality.
A complaint in the case was filed before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) on June 16, 2019. The Committee heard the case on November 22, 2021. Presenting before the Committee were:
- The Center for Reproductive Rights and the Legal and Human Rights Centre, representing the complainants.
- The United Republic of Tanzania, represented by State Attorneys, on behalf of the State.
- Amicus Curiae from the United Nations Working Group on Discrimination against Women.
While days after the arguments at the ACERWC the Tanzanian Minister of Education announced that the country would end the discriminatory policy that is the subject of this lawsuit, the Center and LHRC are continuing to pursue the case to ensure the change is lasting and permanent.
Plaintiff(s): Legal and Human Rights Centre and the Center for Reproductive Rights
Respondent(s): United Republic of Tanzania
Center Attorney: Martin Onyango
- June 16, 2019: The Center and LHRC file complaint in the case before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC).
- November 22, 2021: The Center and LHRC, as well as State Attorneys representing the Tanzanian government, present arguments before the ACERWC.
- March 29, 2022: Hearing in the case is finalized following the interaction between the Committee and the minors who submitted evidence in the case.
News on the Case:
- Center and its Partner Argue Against Tanzania’s Expulsion of Pregnant Girls from School | 11.24.21
- Case Challenging Tanzania’s Discriminatory Expulsion of Pregnant Schoolgirls and Other Human Rights Violations is Heard | 11.22.21
- Center for Reproductive Rights and the Legal and Human Rights Centre File a Complaint Challenging the Expulsion and Exclusion of Pregnant Schoolgirls in Tanzania | 06.17.19
- Center Report: Forced Out: Mandatory Pregnancy Testing and the Expulsion of Pregnant Students in Tanzanian Schools | 9.26.13