Ending forced child marriage: Sierra Leone’s bold new law - FreedomUnited.org

Ending forced child marriage: Sierra Leone’s bold new law

  • Published on
    July 3, 2024
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    Forced Marriage, Law & Policy
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On Tuesday, Sierra Leone enacted a landmark law banning child marriage, a significant step towards protecting children’s rights and well-being, and preventing forced child marriages from taking place in the West African country. The BBC reports on this victory.

Penalties beyond the husband

The new legislation prohibits marriage under the age of 18, imposing strict penalties of up to 15 years in prison and $5,000 in fines on those involved, including the husband, parents, community leaders, and marriage officiants. The law also introduces fines of up to $2,500- and 10 years of imprisonment on anyone who “aids or abets” the marriage. Additionally, it bans cohabitation where adults live with and have sexual relationships with minors. Those married as children can seek financial compensation and petition for an annulment. The law’s consequences are more extensive than those in other African countries and can set a powerful precedent for future prohibitions.

“We want to look at Sierra Leone as being a leader on the continent that can influence other countries.” –  Nerida Nthamburi, Head of Africa Engagement for Girls Not Brides

Importance of banning forced child marriage

In Sierra Leone, nearly 30% of girls are married before the age of 18, often forced into unions by family or societal pressure. These forced marriages result in severe psychological and physical abuse, including early pregnancies, which pose significant health risks in a country already known as one of the most dangerous places in the world to have a child. Child marriage denies young girls the chance to pursue education and personal development, resulting in lifelong economic and social disadvantages.

“[Child marriage is like] taking away a child’s dream and destroying them before they know who they are.” – Fatima Bio, First Lady of Sierra Leone

The First Lady had tirelessly campaigned against child marriage, traveling across every district in Sierra Leone to raise awareness and advocate for this crucial legislation. Thanks to her and other advocates’ hard work, children are now more protected from coercion, ensuring their right to a safe and promising future.

End forced child marriage worldwide

While we celebrate this success in Sierra Leone, our fight is not over until every country in the world has enforced a ban on child marriages. And we pledge to fight every day until every child is free from forced child marriages. Join us today!

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Nusret erdem Ankara
16 days ago

👏👏🙏🙋‍♀️

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