New Law Protects Children as Sierra Leone Says No to Child Marriage

July 4, 2024

Last month, Sierra Leone took a major step forward by passing a new law to stop child marriage. This law, called the Prohibition of Child Marriage Bill 2024, makes it illegal for anyone under 18 to get married. This is a big deal because child marriage has been a serious problem in Sierra Leone.
In Sierra Leone, about 30 percent of girls and 4 percent of boys get married before they turn 18. That’s a lot of young people starting families before they are ready. Many girls, around 800,000, get married before they even turn 15. This law aims to protect these young girls from being forced into marriages that can harm their health and future.
Child marriage often leads to teenage pregnancy, which is a big issue, because problems from pregnancy are the main cause of death for girls aged 15 to 19 there.
The new law doesn’t just ban child marriage, it also makes it illegal to help or encourage someone to marry a child. It puts the interests of children first and provides support like counseling for girls affected by this issue. The law changes other laws too, like those about child rights and customary marriages, to make sure they all agree and help end child marriage.
Sierra Leone has been working hard to support girls’ education as well. A law passed in 2023 guarantees free education for children, including a year before primary school and through secondary school. This helps ensure that girls can stay in school longer and have more opportunities for their future.
The First Lady’s “Hands Off Our Girls” campaign has been a big part of speaking out against child marriage. Her efforts, along with this new law, show Sierra Leone’s commitment to protecting children and promoting equality.

This law is a big step forward for Sierra Leone and could set an example for other countries in Africa to do the same. It’s important now for the government to spread the word about this new law, especially in rural areas where child marriage is more common. They also need to work on other issues related to child marriage, like female genital mutilation, and work with communities and groups to educate people about the harm caused by child marriage.
Written by Alice Njoki

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