The Parliamentary Members of the Committee on Gender and Children’s Affairs, Civil Society Organisations and stakeholders have ended a three-day stakeholders’ meeting on ‘Child Marriage Bill’ review in Bo city.
The move was to educate MPs and CSOs on the need for the enactment of the child marriage proposed bill into law and also to see the need to educate and later enact into law, the draft bill entitled: ‘The Prohibition of Child Marriage Bill 2018’, which seeks to prohibit child marriage to provide protection for the victims of marriage and provide for other related matters.
Giving an overview of the bill, Victoria Squire, Ending Child Marriage Manager Save the Children said UN Women, Save the Children and other organisations started the development of the draft bill in 2018, but due to some challenges, it was not finalised.
She said with recent engagement with the Gender Committee in Parliament and other stakeholders, they thought of it as an organisation, to push for the enactment of the bill into law.
Country Director of Save the Children, Patrick Analo said the objective of the engagement was to educate MPs on the importance of the proposed bill and went further to highlight the role of saving the children in their work in Sierra Leone.
He said 30% of girls get married before age 18 and 9% get married before age 15 years, adding that 70% of marriages are conducted under customary marriage in Sierra Leone.
He went on to say Sierra Leone is 18th in the world, for the highest prevalence rate of child marriage and that 70% of girls have sex before age 18 and 38% would have given birth by then.
The country director highlighted the negative effect of early childbirth and called on MPs to see the need to enact the bill into law to save the children of Sierra Leone.
The Parliamentary Chairperson of Gender and Children Affairs, Hon. Cathrine Zainab Tarawally appreciated the work of Save the Children and went further to highlight the important roles of parliament, relative to law-marking, representation and oversight.
She assured that parliament will continue to do the needful, when the bill is in front of the House, while commending the Leadership of parliament and MPs for recently enacting into law, the Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Bill 2022.
Hon. Cathrine said parliament would continue to collaborate with all stockholders to promote and enhance the right of women in Sierra Leone and went on to call on her colleague MPs to support the gender process.
Representing the Civil Society Organisation, Kadiatu Koroma said child marriage is a social evil in Sierra Lone and called for utmost protection for all children in Sierra Leone.
A PowerPoint presentation was done on the importance of the child marriage bill by Dr. Modufe Taiwo of Save the Children.
The bill focuses on; the prohibition of Child Marriage, prohibition of cohabitation with a child, annulment of child marriage, compensation, protection for victims of child marriage, and miscellaneous provisions.
The engagement was climaxed by stories from children championed who happened to be victims of similar circumstances and also recommendations towards the enactment of the bill into law.