Gambia is the latest in a list of African countries that have chosen the right path of instituting bans against child marriage.
The President of Gambia, Yahya Jammeh announced a ban on child marriage in his country, threatening perpetrators after the fact with a jail term of up to 20 years.
He was speaking to Muslim elders at the Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations at the end of Ramadan. According to him;
“As from today, July 6, child marriage is illegal and is banned in The Gambia”
“Anyone who marries a girl under 18 years will spend 20 years in jail. The girls’ parents would spend 21 years in jail and anyone who knows about it and fails to report the matter to the authorities would spend 10 years in jail.”
“We are destroying the future of our children, who should be going to school. Even the Imam and those that preside over the marriage ceremony would also be sent to jail.”
The President’s edict against child marriage is highly welcome, considering some 46% of girls in The Gambia get married before they are 18, according to the UN children’s agency (Unicef).
A health survey carried out by the government last year also revealed that about 16 percent of women age 20 to 49 were married by the age of 15 and 41 percent by the age of 18. Nearly one-in-five had a child by the age of 19.
The President instructed lawmakers to introduce necessary legislation to ban child marriage before July 21, 2016.
In December last year, he also outlawed female genital mutilation (FGM) with a prison sentence of up to three years for those that ignored the ban. this was after Unicef had verified that three-quarters of women in the mostly Muslim country have had the procedure.
The President insisted that the practice had no place in Islam or in modern society.