The Impact of Banning Child Marriage in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone has taken a significant step towards protecting the rights of girls by implementing a new law that bans child marriage. The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, signed into law by President Julius Maada Bio at a ceremony in Freetown, carries harsh penalties for those involved in marrying off underage girls. The move has been welcomed by activists and advocates, who see it as a crucial step in promoting gender equality and safeguarding the well-being of young girls in the country.

Child marriage has been a deeply entrenched practice in Sierra Leone, with girls as young as 10 being forced into marriage by their families. The new law not only criminalizes the act but also holds accountable the groom, parents, guardians, and even wedding attendees. The legislation is aimed at curbing the high rates of child marriage in the country, which have contributed to alarming levels of maternal mortality.

The introduction of this law is expected to have a profound impact on the lives of young girls in Sierra Leone. It sends a strong message that child marriage is unacceptable and merits severe punishment. By raising awareness about the consequences of violating the law, the government hopes to shift societal norms and protect girls from being married off at a young age.

The story of Khadijatu Barrie, a university student whose sister was married off at 14, highlights the personal toll of child marriage. Khadijatu, who managed to escape being forced into marriage at a young age, emphasizes the importance of educating communities about the new law to ensure its effectiveness. Her experience underscores the challenges faced by girls in Sierra Leone who resist traditional practices and seek to pursue their education and dreams.

President Bio’s personal commitment to empowering women and girls, as demonstrated by his support for the new law, reflects a broader effort to promote gender equality in Sierra Leone. The involvement of the First Lady, Fatima Bio, in campaigning against sexual abuse and championing women’s rights further underscores the government’s dedication to creating a more equal and just society.

The positive reception of the law by rights activists and international organizations, such as the US Bureau of African Affairs, signals a recognition of Sierra Leone’s progress in protecting girls’ rights and promoting human rights more broadly. The law represents a turning point in the fight against child marriage and sets a precedent for other countries to take similar steps to safeguard the well-being of young girls.

Overall, the ban on child marriage in Sierra Leone is a significant development that will have far-reaching implications for gender equality, women’s rights, and the protection of vulnerable girls. It is a step towards building a more empowered and inclusive society where all individuals, regardless of gender, have the opportunity to fulfill their potential and lead dignified lives. For more updates on this story and other news from Africa, visit and follow @BBCAfrica on social media platforms.