The Director of Ben Hirsh Childcare Centre in Kenema has called on the government to make child marriage a crime. The law about child marriage should be implemented to the letter by punishing those that play a role in facilitating or encouraging the marriage. She said the issue of child marriage is eating the fabric of our society. She added, “A nation will only develop with strong women in key government positions.”
She made this appeal during the Law Reform Commission regional consultative seminar on the abolition of child marriage in Sierra Leone held at the Kenema City Council hall with participants from Kenema, Kono and Kailahun districts.
The regional head civil society movement eastern region, Augustine A. Sannoh, said it is the responsibility of all to see that girls get an education. Raising a child is the responsibility of the whole community.
A Commissioner of the Law Reform Commission and President of the Sierra Leone Bar Association, Rhoda Sufian Kargbo Nuni, said the Law Reform Commission is established by Parliament and mandated to review and recommend reforms to the laws of Sierra Leone in October 2016. The Attorney General and Minister of Justice requested the Law Reform Commission set up a sub-committee to examine the issue of child marriage with a view to developing legislation to abolish the practice.
The sub-committee has concluded its work and has produced a report containing recommendations as to how to address the issue of child marriage using the law. The main purpose of the consultation is to discuss the report of the sub-committee particularly its recommendations and elicit the views/ suggestions of stakeholders in the provinces on this very sensitive issue.
According to UNICEF, statistics produced in 2016, 13% of Sierra Leonean girls get married before the age of 15 and 39% of Sierra Leonean girls get married before the age of 18. The predominant view is that domestic laws do not prevent the furtherance of child marriage in Sierra Leone, either because of conflicting provisions and or challenges in implementing the law.
The secretary to the Law Reform Commission, Maynard A.B. Timbo, defined child marriage as a formal marriage or informal union entered into by an individual before reaching the age of 18, and includes child betrothal, cohabitation, and court approved early marriages following teenage pregnancy. Although child marriage affects both girls and boys, girls are disproportionately affected in Sierra Leone.
Similar activities with funding from UNFPA and Plan have taken place in Makeni and Kenema and will continue in Bo and Freetown. SM/9/10/17
By Saffa B. Moriba
Tuesday October 10, 2017.