AfCHPR Reaches Judgment Following Tanzania’s End on its Ban of Pregnant Girls in School.

Alexa Connaughton
Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

TANZANIA – In 2002, Tanzania enacted an amendment to the Education Act which banned pregnant girls from attending school, even after they had given birth. The effects of this policy were disastrous, leading to the expulsion of thousands of girls, making them unable to complete their compulsory education.

Girls on their way to school. Photo courtesy of Center for Reproductive Rights.

According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, Tanzania has one of the highest rates of child marriages in the world. Many schools lack of sex education and students don’t have access to information on how to prevent pregnancy, yet young girls are still subjected to this rule. Teachers and school administrators are left to enforce the policy with many schools choosing to conduct mandatory pregnancy tests, though there is nothing in the amendment to call for that.

Petitions regarding this matter have been brought to many different courts since the amendment’s inception. In 2012 the Legal Human Rights Center and the National Organization for Legal Assistance filed a petition with the High Court of Tanzania, on behalf of schoolgirls in Tanzania. Their petition was against the Minister of Education and Vocational Training, and the Attorney General of Tanzania. The petition alleged that the policy violates the Article 13 of the Constitution of Tanzania, which protects equal rights and non-discrimination. However, this petition was dismissed in 2017 after five years.

In November 2020 a petition on behalf of six Tanzanian girls who were expelled from school was brought before the court, in the case Tike Mwambipile and Equality Now v. United Republic of Tanzania. The petition alleged that the amendment violated the girls’ rights to education and non-discrimination. Seven different organizations also filed amicus curiae briefs, some of which included the Human Rights Watch and UNESCO. The Court recently released its judgment on this matter deciding that the petition was inadmissible due to the fact that another petition was filed with the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child who held a hearing on the matter in November 2021. Following that hearing Tanzania’s Ministry of Education adopted Circular No. 2 which reinstated students and effectively ended Tanzania’s ban on teen mothers in schools. However, Tanzania was one of three countries in the sub-Saharan African region which adhere to an official ban against pregnant students and Tanzania has yet to codify a protection of girls’ right to access education, regardless of pregnancy.

For further information, please see:

AfCHPR – Tike Mwambipile and Equality Now v. United Republic of Tanzania – Dec. 1, 2022

Center for Reproductive Rights – Center for Reproductive Rights and the Legal and Human Rights Centre file a complaint challenging the expulsion and exclusion of pregnant schoolgirls in Tanzania – June 17, 2019

Center for Reproductive Rights – Tanzania’s Policy Change Will Allow Pregnant Schoolgirls to Continue Their Education – Dec. 22, 2021

Equality Now – African Court On Human And Peoples’ Rights To Give Verdict On Case Challenging Tanzania’s Ban On Pregnant Girls And Adolescent Mothers Attending School – Nov. 20, 2022

Human Rights Watch – Tanzania: Pregnant Student Ban Harms Thousands – Oct. 6, 2021

Author: Jorge Estacio