Sierra Leone President Signs Bill Banning Child Marriage

A bill banning child marriage in Sierra Leone was signed into law by President Julius Maada Bio on Tuesday, aiming to protect girls in a country where about a third are married before adulthood.

The new law criminalizes marrying any girl under 18 years old. Offenders face up to 15 years in prison or a fine of approximately $4,000, or both. Witnesses to such marriages will also face jail time or a fine.

“I have always believed that the future of Sierra Leone is female,” Bio stated on social media platform X. “This and future generations of girls must thrive in Sierra Leone, where they are protected, equal, and empowered.”

Sierra Leone is home to 800,000 child brides, with half of them married before the age of 15, according to the U.N. children’s agency.

First Lady Fatima Bio was a key champion of the law, which also provides improved access to education and support services for children affected by child marriage.

When the bill was passed by parliament as a bipartisan measure in June, she called it “a significant step forward in protecting the rights of our next generation.”

The law has been widely celebrated as a crucial move toward ensuring the safety and empowerment of girls in Sierra Leone.

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