In a bid to protect girls and fight child marriage, the Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has made a pronouncement, which outlaws child marriage.President Jammeh announced that any person who marries a girl below the age of 18 will face 20 years in prison as part of his government’s commitment to fight and prevent child marriage. Jammeh also reportedly said anyone involved is aiding, or abating an underage marriage will be convicted.
The declaration follows a countrywide sensitization campaign, which was launched last month. The government declared June, “the month on ending child marriage” and First Lady Zineb Yahya Jammeh led the the African Union campaign called End Child Marriage in the country.
President Jammeh reportedly said legislators will soon introduce the new law to ban the practice.
The declaration and proposed law is indeed a welcome development considering child marriage is a major issue in Gambia. According to girls not brides, approximately 1 in 3 in the Gambia are married before the age of 18.
In a similar development, Tanzania recently passed a provision, which stipulates that men who impregnate or marry schoolgirls will face 30 years in prison as part of government commitment to fight child marriage. The country has one of the highest child marriage prevalence rates in the world, and to eliminate the scourge, the government is taking tougher measures in the form of lengthy jail terms to protect school-girls.
Child marriage remains a huge problem in many African countries, with young girls being forced to drop out of school, which puts their future at risk. In sub-Saharan Africa, about 40 percent of girls reportedly marry before the age of 18 and numerous countries have committed to ending child marriages (Zimbabwe and Malawi recently banned child marriages).