Why African Court dismissed case on Tanzania's school ban on pregnant girls
What you need to know:
- In 2017, former President John Magufuli reinforced a restrictive policy barring teen mothers from attending school.
- Last September, ACERWC faulted the Tanzanian government for violating multiple human rights of adolescent girls.
- It recommended the government to immediately prohibit mandatory pregnancy testing in schools, health facilities and publicly announce the prohibition.
On November 19, 2020, Tike Mwambipile joined forces with Equality Now to challenge Tanzania’s education ban on pregnant and teenage mothers at the African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights (the Court).
Mwambipile, a Tanzanian human rights activist and Equality Now, an international human rights organisation, jointly sought the Court’s intervention, urging it to order the Tanzanian government to revoke the prohibitive policy and amend its legislation to protect the girls’ right to education.
In 2017, former President John Magufuli reinforced the restrictive policy barring teen mothers from attending primary and secondary school. The law was first introduced in 1961, but it was escalated during Magufuli’s reign.
On June 23, 2017, in an article Tanzanian leader reaffirms ban on pregnant girls attending State schools Magufuli is quoted saying: “In my administration, as long as I am president … no pregnant student will be allowed to return to school. We cannot allow this immoral behaviour to permeate our primary and secondary schools … never.”
In a judgment dated December 1, 2022, the Court dismissed the application on grounds that the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) had already adjudicated on the matter.
ACERWC, established by Article 32 of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, is the first and only child rights treaty body in the world with the competence to receive complaints against States.
On September 15, 2022, the committee faulted the Tanzanian government for violating multiple human rights of adolescent girls when it expelled them from school for being pregnant.
This was after the Centre for Reproductive Rights and Legal and Human Rights Centre of Tanzania filed a case against the State on behalf of six pregnant adolescent girls banned from learning.
It found that the Tanzanian government infringed on their rights when it subjected them to mandatory pregnancy testing and expelled them from school.
The committee also found the government to be taking away the girls' rights when it illegally detains the pregnant adolescents, totally bans them from accessing education post-childbirth, and fails to enable them access sexual reproductive health services and information.
It recommended the government to immediately prohibit mandatory pregnancy testing in schools, health facilities and publicly announce the prohibition.
It further wants Tanzania to undertake concrete steps to prevent expulsion of pregnant, married girls from schools by providing applicable laws and policies.
It also recommended re-admission of school girls who have been expelled due to pregnancy and wedlock.
And the Tanzanian government was to report back to the ACERWC on measures taken to implement the decision within 180 days from the date the decision was released.
However, nine months earlier on November 24, 2021, the country’s Education Minister Prof Joyce Ndalichako, had announced that the government would allow all students who dropped out of school due to various reasons, including pregnancy, to return to school in a formal system after giving birth.