Child Marriage prohibition Act, key fact you must know


By Jariatu S Bangura

Members of Parliament in Sierra Leone have unanimously enacted the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2024, criminalizing the act of marrying or entering into a union with a child under the age of 18.

The new legislation introduces stringent measures to protect young girls and ensure their access to education and support services.

Key Provisions of the Act includes total Prohibition of Child Marriage: The Act prohibits all forms of child marriage and any actions that facilitate it. This includes giving consent, using force, promoting, attending or officiating child marriage.

Prohibition of Cohabitation with a Child: It is illegal to cohabit with or attempt to cohabit with a child. Aiding or abetting such actions is also prohibited.

Legal Annulment and Compensation: The Act provides for the annulment of child marriages, compensation for the child involved, and legitimacy for children born from such unions.

Enforcement and Penalties: A Child Marriage Prohibition Officer, appointed by the Ministry of Gender and Children’s Affairs, will oversee the enforcement of the Act. Offenders face fines of no less than NLe 50,000, imprisonment of at least fifteen years, or both.

Sierra Leone has one of the highest rates of child marriage and early pregnancy, with one-third of girls married before 18 and another third giving birth before 19. The new law addresses the gaps in previous regulations to better protect children.

Statements from Parliamentarians:

Hon. Mariama Zombo emphasized that the Act closes loopholes in previous laws and supports campaigns like “Hands off our Girls,” promoting the protection of young girls. She highlighted the negative effects of early marriage and urged unity among MPs to enforce the law.

Speaker of Parliament urged MPs to consider the mental well-being of young girls forced into early marriages, stressing the ordeals they face.

Hon. Katherine Zainab Tarawally, Parliamentary Committee Chairperson, expressed gratitude for the enactment of the law, emphasizing its importance for the protection of girls, especially in regions with ongoing challenges in educating them.

Hon. Abdul Karim Kamara called for stronger laws to protect women and highlighted the need for rehabilitation centers for those affected by annulled marriages. He stressed the importance of monitoring the law’s implementation.

Hon. Abdul Kargbo noted that the law benefits children of both the opposition and ruling parties. He stressed the importance of educating potential perpetrators and victims to prevent child marriage.

The enactment of the Child Marriage Prohibition Act 2024 marks a significant step towards safeguarding the rights and futures of young girls in Sierra Leone, aligning with international agreements such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child.


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