Sierra Leone Enacts Landmark Law Banning Child Marriage

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By  Milcah  Tanimu


In a historic move to protect children’s rights, Sierra Leone has enacted the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, banning child marriage and setting the minimum age for marriage at 18. This groundbreaking law, signed by President Julius Maada Bio, was celebrated in a grand ceremony in Freetown attended by distinguished guests, including first ladies from Cape Verde and Namibia.

The new legislation imposes stringent penalties on those who facilitate or participate in the marriage of a girl under 18. Offenders face a minimum of 15 years imprisonment, a fine of approximately $4,000 (£3,200), or both.


The ceremony, orchestrated by First Lady Fatima Bio, marked a significant victory in the fight against child marriage. A vocal advocate for women’s and children’s rights, Fatima Bio emphasized the importance of the law in protecting young girls from the detrimental impacts of early marriage.

“Today, we are making history,” Fatima Bio declared. “This law is not just a piece of legislation; it is a statement that Sierra Leone values its girls and is committed to ensuring their rights and future.”


The signing of the law was met with widespread acclaim from various sectors of society. Khadijatu Barrie, a university student whose sister was married off at the age of 14, expressed her relief and optimism about the future. “I welcome the ban and wish it had come earlier to save my younger sibling,” she told the BBC. “This law will ensure that other girls do not suffer the same fate.”

International organizations and human rights advocates also praised Sierra Leone’s move. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) highlighted the law as a critical step in improving the lives of young girls across the nation.


While the new law represents significant progress, its implementation will be crucial in realizing its full potential. The government has pledged to work closely with community leaders, religious figures, and civil society organizations to ensure widespread awareness and adherence to the law.

Education will play a vital role in this process. Efforts are underway to enhance educational opportunities for girls, aiming to keep them in school and out of early marriages. Programs focusing on community education and empowerment are being rolled out, targeting both urban and rural areas.


Sierra Leone’s move is part of a broader trend across Africa to end child marriage. Countries like Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, and South Africa have also taken legislative steps to curb the practice. The global community continues to push for more countries to adopt similar laws, recognizing the profound impact child marriage has on health, education, and economic outcomes for girls.


The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act marks a pivotal moment in Sierra Leone’s journey towards gender equality and children’s rights. As the nation celebrates this victory, the focus now shifts to effective implementation and community engagement to ensure that every girl can enjoy her childhood free from the threat of early marriage.


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