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Hon. Zombo Serves Notice on Anti-Child Marriage Bill

Hon. Mariama Mania Zombo, a representative of the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) for the Pujehun District, has formally announced her intent to propose a Private Member’s Motion against child marriage. This announcement was made verbally to Members of the House following the 52nd sitting of the Sierra Leone Parliament on Tuesday, 4th June 2024.

The proposed bill, titled the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2024, seeks to address the prevalent issue of child marriage in Sierra Leone. Hon. Zombo cited the need for comprehensive legislation that prohibits child marriage, provides protection against it, prohibits cohabitation of a child, annuls child marriages, compensates victims, and harmonizes existing laws related to child marriage in Sierra Leone.

“The bill is entitled, the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2024. I rose on Standing Order 48.1 which gives me the mandate as a parliamentarian to push for a Private Member’s Bill. This bill intends to have an Act that prohibits child marriage, provides protection against child marriage, prohibits cohabitation of a child, annuls child marriage, compensates victims of child marriage, and harmonizes all laws related to child marriage in Sierra Leone, especially around issues of consent, age and other important aspects that have loopholes in the laws,” Hon. Zombo said.

She emphasized the necessity for amendments to current laws, pointing out deficiencies in the 2007 Child Rights Act, the Registration of Customary Marriage and Divorce Act of 2009, the Christian Marriage Act of 1960, the Muslim Marriage Act of 1960, and the Civil Marriage Act of 1960. Hon. Zombo highlighted specific loopholes and discrepancies in these laws that perpetuate the persistence of child marriage.

Hon. Zombo said: “The Civil Marriage Act does not in any way show that a child and a contracting body can give a certificate or not to a child couple, that is not clear. The Muslim Marriage Act does not in any way mention age whereas the Christian Marriage Act talks about twenty-one years’ not in tandem with the age of consent which is eighteen.” 

In response to inquiries about pursuing the bill through the traditional legislative route, Hon. Zombo explained that the urgent nature of the issue warrants immediate action. She stressed the critical health implications and adverse effects, including high maternal and infant mortality rates, adolescent health complications, and impediments to the education and empowerment of girls.

The significance of enacting the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2024 was underscored by its potential to address the urgent challenges posed by child marriage and its wide-reaching impact on the fundamental rights and well-being of children. Hon. Zombo expressed hope that the bill's enactment would significantly mitigate the prevalence of child marriage and its associated detrimental effects.

“I moved the motion of a Private Member’s Bill because the other laws that we are talking about are old and issues-laden. For child marriage, I think the situation is urgent posing health complications that adolescent girls are facing – causing obstetric fistula borne from teenage pregnancy which is a byproduct of child marriage. We have discovered that adolescent girls are dying in childbirth and you know that we are still among the countries with the highest maternal and infant mortality rate globally and adolescents are hugely affected by health, mental health, and psychological issues all of which affect the education of girls. So, child marriage in itself affects all the other rights that we are fighting to give to children. If you look at the rate of child marriage in this country, around 2017, we had the highest rate of child marriage and even now, it is still high, over thirty percent. We are hoping that if this bill is enacted, it will change the trajectory. If this law is not passed, child marriage is going to undermine all that we are putting into girls protection and women’s empowerment,” Hon. Zombo said.


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