Basiru disclosed that, the Child Rights Act of Sierra Leone is a law which talks about the basic rights of children for them to be well-taken care of in the society.
He noted that Section 34 of the Child Rights Act 2007, states that no child under the age of eighteen years should be married, while the Customary Marriage and Divorce Acts guarantee that a child of age sixteen years can be given into marriage with consultation and approval of the parents.
“We see this contradiction as a challenge to the implementation of this Act and in the past we have been advocating to the government and other policies to be harmonized for the implementation of the Act,” Basiru said. He added that they have done their survey and though they could find no child marriage case in the courts it does not show that child marriage is on the increase because of the Customary and Divorce Acts which allow for it to happen.
He used the opportunity to urge the Attorney General and Minister of Justice as well as President Julius Maada Bio to ensure that the contradiction the Child Rights Act is harmonized; because most of the laws protecting children give respect to age, the Customary Marriage and Divorce Act provides a legal platform for child marriage, which is arguably on the increase.
“The justification to give children into marriage has led to an increase in teenage pregnancy, infant mortality rate, school dropouts,” Basiru said.