Four school girls make their way to class in Freetown, Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone: Historic bill to end child marriage passed – sustained efforts to raise community awareness must now follow

Reacting to the signing into law of the Prohibition of Child Marriage Act 2024 on 2 July by President Julius Maada Bio, Samira Daoud, Amnesty International Regional Director for West and Central Africa, said:

“We welcome this historic law banning child marriage in Sierra Leone. This legislation, in criminalizing marriage for anyone under the age of 18, seeks to protect girls from a deeply harmful practice that has long violated their rights and hindered their education, health, and well-being. This represents a major step forward in the fight against gender-based violence.

We urge other countries in West and Central Africa who have not done so, to outlaw child marriage.

Samira Daoud, Amnesty International Regional Director for West and Central Africa

“We call on the Sierra Leonean authorities to now take the necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of the law, including a national awareness raising campaign, especially focused in rural areas. We also urge other countries in West and Central Africa who have not done so, to outlaw child marriage.” 

Background

According to UNICEF, West and Central Africa had the highest prevalence of child marriage in the world in 2023. In Sierra Leone, 30% of women aged 20 to 24 years were first married or in union between 15 and 18.

Through a programme implemented in Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso and Senegal, Amnesty International has been working since 2017 to prevent and reduce child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation through education, awareness raising and advocacy, with a view to bringing about attitudinal and behavioural change and legislative reform in these countries. In Sierra Leone, Amnesty International has been working with our community-based organisations in twelve communities in the districts of Bombali, Kambia, Moyamba, Kenema, Port Loko and Pujehun by promoting intergenerational dialogue and setting up school human rights clubs and alert committees.