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Tanzania: Men Will Now Think Twice before Impregnating a schoolgirl

By Nelly Mtema

Dodoma — Union legislators passed a Written Laws Miscellaneous Act (no2) of 2016 that will, among other measures, see that people who will end the road to education for primary and secondary school girls -- either by marrying them or impregnating them -- are severely punished.

Most MPs who debated the bill before endorsing it in the National Assembly here commended the amendment of the Education Act, Cap 353, under which offenders will face a jail sentence of up to 30 years.

The Act, which awaits the president's approval before it starts officially, will also see a person who will facilitate, convince or take part in a move that would abet marriage of a primary or secondary school girl sentenced to 5m/- fine or five years in jail or both.

At least 21 provisions of the Act, tabled by the Attorney General, Mr George Masaju, aimed at improving services and enhancing accountability, were amended. Debating the bill, Mr Constantine Kanyasu (Geita Urban-CCM), proposed a DNA test after the child is born ensure that those who are convicted are true offenders.

The sentiments were also echoed d by Ms Subira Mgalu (Special Seats-CCM) who commended the amendment which, she said, will not cut short the girls/boys' chances to achieve their education goals.

She advised that it should cater for all boys and girls over 18 years of age who are not in school. Ms Janeth Mbene (Ileje-CCM) called for stiff rules and regulations after the enactment of the law, which, she said, "are vital if the Act is to serve the intended purpose".

Winding up the debate, Mr Masaju made it clear that the under-18 boys who will impregnate their fellow pupils will not be liable for the 30-years jail term but will be charged under the Child Protection Act, which provides for a number of penalties.

On the need for DNA tests before one starts serving the jail term, the attorney general said the current witness and prosecution rules will stand since the DNA test is done once the baby is born - which would create confusion when the judgment is passed while the convict is waiting for the test.

"Let us believe in our standing defence and prosecution rules. They need a closer follow up before making a ruling for the sake of fairness" the attorney general advised.

Mr Masaju said the move was aimed at ensuring that schoolgirls finish their education without hindrance, taking into account that the government has offered free education to all children from primary to secondary schools.

Moreover, by the endorsement of the amendments, perpetrators of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), will be liable to 2m/- fine or 15 years in jail or both, the ultimate goal being to end such acts.

Other amendments made involved the fine stipulated by the Anti-Money Laundering Act, which should be an amount equivalent to three times the market value of the property - unlike the 500m/- maximum fine under the current law when the offence has been committed by a corporate body.

Others are the Forestry Act Cap 323 in which current laws have settled for a 1m/- maximum fine for log smugglers.

It has instead been raised to 5m/- or three times the market price of the contraband and a three-year jail term. Under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, sentences for convicts have been increased, including the death sentence in case there are deaths involved from the incidents - and life imprisonment if there are major impacts caused; and 30 years in jail under other circumstances.

The Public Leadership Code of Ethics Act, Cap 398 now bars leaders, their families or limited companies to enter into any business contract with the government during their terms of service. They would be able to do that six months after their retirement.

Local contractors are set to enjoy the market share of the industry as the changes in the Contractors Registration Act, Cap 235 call for restriction on registration of a foreign firm where local firms can do the job.

Foreigners are also not allowed to register a local contracting firm unless they join forces with a Tanzanian who must be the major shareholder.