Banning teen mothers from school in Tanzania

Global attentions turned to Tanzania President Magufuli, when he claimed teenage mothers should not be allowed to go back to school. He argued that since they were already mothers, they would encourage other girls to engage in sex. Currently, more than 8,000 girls are being expelled from school every year, for “offences against morality” and “wedlock”.

The president fails to recognise that teenage pregnancy happens in a myriad of circumstances, including statutory rape, lack of comprehensive sexuality education, sexual violence and early, child and forced marriages.

By preventing pregnant girls from continuing their studies, the State jeopardizes their ability to prepare socially and economically for their future. It validates stigmatisation and discrimination of teenage moms, and perpetuates cycles of poverty and inequity. Mr Magufuli’s position on preventing pregnant girls from returning to school annihilated efforts made by civil society organisations and women’s rights organisation to push for change in a law passed in 2002 that allows for the expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls.

Addressing the status quo

Mr Magufuli’s stance is just another example of a misogynist status quo that wrongfully punishes girls for early pregnancy, while turning a blind eye to the boys and men involved. Not only do the State’s actions deny pregnant girls the opportunity to build upon available resources through education, but they continue to perpetuate unintended pregnancies by neglecting quality sexual education and family planning options in schools.

The full retrospect of banning pregnant girls from continuing with their studies will neither decrease rates of teenage pregnancy, nor will it reduce rates of abortion in the country. Conversely, it will only fuel a rise in unsafe abortion and further exacerbate what can already be considered a public health crisis in women’s reproductive health care.

Due to a lack of safe abortion services in Tanzania and the stigma that surrounds the interruption of pregnancies, policies such as these will drive more women towards unsafe, unsanitary, or untrained abortion providers or facilities. These “backstreet” or “black market” abortion services are a significant threat to women’s health and wellbeing.

The team at HowToUseAbortionPill is working to disseminate information on how to use abortion pills, despite restrictive political landscapes. HowToUse also helps to promote the access of Misoprostol and Mifepristone online, through platforms such as safe2chooseWomenHelpWomen and WomenOnWeb.

If you’d like to read more about safe abortion options in Tanzania, you can read more on our country profile here.