Pregnant schoolgirls and adolescent mothers in Tanzania will be able to continue their education after the country announced an end to its discriminatory policy that barred them from school.
The move by Tanzania’s Minister of Education came just days after the Center for Reproductive Rights and its partner in Tanzania, the Legal and Human Rights Centre (LHRC), argued their case against the policy before the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) on November 22.
The case, Legal and Human Rights Center and the Center for Reproductive Rights (on behalf of Tanzanian Girls) against the United Republic of Tanzania, was brought on behalf of six Tanzanian girls who were expelled from school for being pregnant. The lawsuit accused the government of Tanzania of committing human rights and gender equality violations by keeping the discriminatory policies in place.
For years, the Tanzanian government has forced public schoolgirls to undergo pregnancy testing and permanently expelled them if they were pregnant. While education is the clearest pathway to a better life for girls living in poverty, Tanzania’s oppressive practice has denied thousands the opportunity to continue their formal education and undermined their fundamental rights to education, equality, non-discrimination, and freedom from inhuman and degrading treatment.
- Human Rights Watch (HRW) estimates that 15,000 girls in Tanzania drop out of school annually due to pregnancy.
- Data from Tanzania’s Ministry of Education and Vocational Training reported that in 2012, due to pregnany, 2,433 girls dropped out of primary school and 4,705 dropped out of secondary school.
- Tanzania 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.
Center and Partners Will Continue to Push for the Ban’s Permanent Lift
While the Education Minister’s announcement to end the ban is a positive development, the Center and LHRC remain committed to following through with their case and ensuring that the ban’s permanent lift is codified within Tanzanian law.
“Tanzania will be fulfilling its obligations to the multiple regional and international human rights instruments if the current administration permanently reverses oppressive and discriminatory education policies,” said Evelyne Opondo, the Center’s Senior Regional Director for Africa. “While today’s news is very welcome, we will continue to pursue our case until this change is lasting and permanent,” added Opondo.
“While this verbal announcement by the Minister for Education demonstrates political goodwill towards ending systemic exclusion and discrimination of schoolgirls within Tanzania’s school system, it must be backed by written policy or guidelines, if not the law,” said Fulgence Massawe, Director of LHRC.
Martin Onyango, the Center’s Head of Legal Strategies for Africa, said that in a favorable outcome in the ACERWC case, “Tanzania would be obligated to undertake legislative, administrative, and judicial measures to ensure that girls’ rights—including their entitlements to education, health, equality, privacy and dignity, freedom from cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment—are enforced and that violations are prevented.”
In addition, added Onyango, “Other countries in the region with similar restrictive laws against women and girls’ rights may follow suit and consider changing their laws so they are less restrictive.”
A decision in the case is expected sometime in 2022.
- Lifting the Ban On Pregnant Schoolgirls and Adolescent Mothers by the United Republic of Tanzania | 11.25.21
- Center and its Partner Argue Against Tanzania’s Expulsion of Pregnant Girls from School | 11.24.21
- 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
- Forced Out: Mandatory Pregnancy Testing and the Expulsion of Pregnant Students in Tanzanian Schools | 9.26.13