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Sierra Leone Passes Comprehensive Bill Against Child Marriage

Last Updated on June 28, 2024 by News Desk

Sierra Leone’s parliament has approved The Prohibition of Child Marriage Bill 2024, which aims to enforce penalties on offenders, protect victim’s rights, and ensure access to education and support services for young girls affected by child marriage.

The bill is a harmonisation of previous laws, ensuring 18 years as the minimum legal age of marriage. It also includes provisions for enforcing penalties on offenders, protecting victim’s rights, and ensuring access to education and support services for young girls affected by early child marriage. The bill complements changes in national law passed in 2023, guaranteeing 13 years of free schooling.

Evidence shows that child marriage laws need to be accompanied by government investment in gender-transformative services and policies, and collaboration with civil society to transform attitudes and social norms that systematically devalue girls. This comprehensive approach is needed to address the root causes of child marriage and gender inequality, and to ensure the law fulfills its intention to provide support for girls affected by or at risk of child marriage.

Adolescent girls, their families, and children can be negatively impacted by criminalization of child marriage, emphasizing the need for laws and approaches to justice to be part of a comprehensive approach to address the structural drivers of child marriage, including services and support for married girls.

This is endorsed by the UN Human Rights Council recommendation to States regarding legal approaches that criminalize child marriage.

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