March 4, 2016 By Joseph S. Margai
Commissioner, National Commission for Children, Mrs. Olayinka Laggah, has disclosed that a study on child marriage in Sierra Leone, which was conducted by her institution, proved that decisions on early marriage were mostly based on signs of puberty rather than the age of girls.
She made this disclosure while making her presentation on the fact finding study on child marriage in Sierra Leone at the Hill Valley Hotel, Wednesday, 2 March, 2016.
Commissioner Laggah said their study discovered that a lot of girls are impregnated by their teachers, who themselves are volunteers in the schools.
“The unavailability of educational opportunities and the lack of trained and qualified teachers are to some extent contributed to the prevalence of early marriage. A long distance from communities to schools cause parents to delay enrolment of girls in schools at the required age of six,” she said the study revealed.
Our study, she added, highlighted that poor parenting is a high contributor to early marriage.
“Most of the problems start from the homes because if parents leave their children to take care of themselves, they will definitely act like adults,” she said.
She disclosed that their findings also reveal that traditional practices and religious beliefs significantly influence decisions of parents and children with regards early marriage. These practices, she said, are particularly prevalent among the Fullah, Madingo and Susu ethnic groups.
Under sexual and reproductive health services, she said, respondents revealed that ethical standards were totally ignored while offering family planning services to school going girls as young as 15 years. She added that parents and duty bearers that were interviewed disclosed that sexual reproductive health services provided for girls are inappropriate and inconsistent.
She however called on traditional leaders to draft bye-laws that should prevent early marriage in their chiefdoms.
While commenting on the report, a participant, Alhaji M.S. Conteh, said most commercial motor bike riders do impregnate young girls. He cited an instance in his school where six pupils have been impregnated by commercial bike riders.
“You know that some of these young girls like free ride and it is because of this that they fall in love with some of these riders. After some time they are impregnated,” he said.
A representative of Council of Paramount Chiefs in the eastern region, P.C. Fasuluku, said their hands are tied in the area of making and implementing bye-laws in their chiefdoms.
“Bye-laws go with fines and we have been hugely criticised for imposing fines on our people. In fact, all local courts are no longer under chiefdom administration but the judiciary,” he disclosed.
He disclosed that in Kono district most men are divorcing their wives because they have been taking them to the Police whenever they have a conflict. He added that there are too many laws that protect the rights of women in the country rather than men.