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Anti-Child Marriage Act enacted in Parliament

On the 20th of June 2024, the Parliament of Sierra Leone officially enacted the "Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2024," a legislative proposal championed by the First Lady, Fatima Bio was introduced in the House of Parliament as a private member motion by Hon. Zombo on June 4th 2024.

The act, upon careful review, provides lucidity to ambiguous sections of existing laws pertinent to the safeguarding of child rights in the context of traditional African marital practices. Notably, it nullifies certain religious doctrines previously fortified by Sierra Leonean legislation about age, parental authority, and consent.

Under the new legislation, any form of matrimonial union involving a child, even with parental or guardian consent, is deemed unlawful. Additionally, attendance or involvement in ceremonies associated with such unions is prosecutable unless explicit evidence of unawareness of the child's age is presented.

Furthermore, a child previously involved in any form of marital arrangement is empowered to seek annulment, although the requirement for adult assistance in filing for annulment arouses some reservations. Nonetheless, it is acknowledged that legal complexities arise when considering the involvement of a child in their legal affairs.

The introduction of child marriage prohibition officers delineated within the legislation, marks a significant step towards eradicating the peril of child marriage, provided they execute their duties effectively.

Nurturing a robust educational outreach program, paired with clearly defined enforcement timelines, is imperative to ensure strict compliance with the law once it comes into force, free from political influence and deviations from its original purpose.

The bill was debated and overwhelming supported by the women caucus of both aisles in the House of Parliament.

Photo Credit: Obtained from the Office of the First Lady Handles.


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