Andrea Tsele, who is the District Commissioner in Ludewa, Njombe Region in Tanzania, has ordered the arrest and jailing of couples in the area who are in a come-we-stay relationship arrangement.
Tsele says that such relationships have yielded “very many street children”.
Tsele claims men in the area have perfected the art of convincing women to accommodate them, and, after getting the women pregnant, the men take to their heels.
The DC made the remarks while speaking at Mavanga Village on Monday, when he presided over a workshop that brought together men from the district.
The aim of the meeting, he said, was to raise awareness on “backward culture” that should be done away with.
“I urge you to ensure that you formally tie the knot before planning to have babies. That [solemnisation of relationships] happens in churches, mosques and the registrar of marriages office. And you [Ludewa police boss], I order you to arrest and oversee the prosecution of couples who are in come-we-stay relationships,” said Tsele.
“You will find so many street children loitering around. The urchins come from families in which men and women decided to live together without a legally-binding relationship agreement. We want to reduce the number of street children. I, therefore, urge those in come-we-stay unions, and are yet to tie the knot to do so… And those who will refuse to exchange wedding vows, should be arrested,” said Tsele.
“Why would grown-up people add an easily avoidable burden on the government? Jails are for criminals, and people who don’t want to formalise their relationships but end up having babies, are criminals,” said Tsele.
“Jails should be occupied by human beings, not animals; a lot of government resources have gone into building the detention centres, and, therefore, human beings should occupy them. And some of the human beings who should be thrown behind bars are people who do not want to solemnise their relationships, yet they want to live together as husband and wife,” said Tsele.
The Tanzania’s Marriage Act 1971 states that any man and woman who have lived together as a couple for more than two years without registering the union are treated as legally married couples by the State, and that legal action can be instituted against either of the parties.
Section 160 of Tanzania’s Marriage Act 1971 says: “(1) Where it is proved that a man and woman have lived together for two years or more, in such circumstances as to have acquired the reputation of being husband and wife, there shall be a rebuttable presumption that they were duly married.
“(2) When a man and a woman have lived together in circumstances which give rise to a presumption provided for in subsection (1) and such presumption is rebutted in any court of competent jurisdiction, the woman shall be entitled to apply for maintenance for herself and for every child of the union on satisfying the court that she and the man did in fact live together as husband and wife for two years or more, and the court shall have jurisdiction to make an order or orders for maintenance and, upon application made therefor either by the woman or the man, to grant such other reliefs, including custody of children, as it has jurisdiction under this Act to make or grant upon or subsequent to the making of an order for the dissolution of a marriage or an order for separation, as the court may think fit, and the provisions of this Act which regulate and apply to proceedings for, and orders of, maintenance and other reliefs shall, in so far as they may be applicable, regulate and apply to proceedings for and orders of maintenance and other reliefs under this section.”
The law, however, says no agency or person can coerce either party into living with his wife or her husband.
Section 140 of the Act says: “No proceeding may be brought to compel a wife to live with her husband or a husband with his wife, but it shall be competent for a spouse who has been deserted to refer the matter to a Board.”