Sierra Leone Takes Bold Step to End Child Marriage

Sierra Leone has taken a significant stride in protecting its youth by officially outlawing child marriage. President Julius Maada Bio signed groundbreaking legislation aimed at ending a practice that has long plagued the nation, with approximately one-third of girls married before their 18th birthday.

The new law imposes severe penalties on offenders, including potential prison sentences of at least 15 years and substantial fines for men who marry underage girls. Parents and ceremony attendees could also face financial penalties, underscoring the government’s commitment to eradicating this harmful tradition.

This legislative move is particularly crucial in West and Central Africa, a region with the world’s highest prevalence of child marriage. The ban is expected to have far-reaching implications, potentially reducing maternal mortality rates and improving girls’ overall well-being and prospects.

Human rights advocates have lauded the bill as a landmark decision that could inspire similar actions in neighboring countries. The law not only protects young girls but also provides a pathway for those previously forced into marriages to seek annulments.

As Sierra Leone implements this transformative legislation, it sets an example for other African nations grappling with similar issues, potentially catalyzing a broader regional shift towards protecting children’s rights and promoting gender equality.