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‘A beacon of hope’: Sierra Leone bans child marriage


Sierra Leoneans living in B.C. are applauding the recent law that bans child marriages in the West African country, but are raising concerns about how the new legislation will be enforced.

“Because of the level of, illiteracy in Sierra Leone, there’s some people that, even though this law has been enacted now, they will not hear about it.” Valda Kargbo, vice-president of the Sierra Leonean Community of British Columbia told Global News.

“And so we have to do more. We can’t just pluck something out and plunk it down somewhere else and think that it’s going to work.”


Valda Kargbo, vice-president of the Sierra Leonean Community of British Columbia, says she is pleased about the new law, but worries about how it will be enforced.


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Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio signed the bill into law on July 2.

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Under the law, anyone who marries a person under the age of 18 will face jail terms of at least 15 years or a fine of around $4,000.


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According to UNICEF, child brides are common in Sierra Leone, a country of 9 million people.


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The organization said that in 2017 there were 800,000 wives under the age of 18, including 400,000 younger than 15.

“This is an accomplishment that will define my administration,” Bio said, calling the new law a “beacon of hope in Africa where women have boundless opportunities to be and determine their own future and inspire the world.”

According to UNICEF, as of 2017, 30 per cent of girls had been married before their 18th birthday, down from 37 per cent 25 years earlier.

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For Albert Mackoty, a survivor of the Sierra Leonean civil war and president of the Sierra Leonean Community of British Columbia, this new law brings immense joy and is considered a landmark achievement.


Albert Mackoty called the new legislation a landmark achievement.


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Mackoty reflected on his experiences growing up in Sierra Leone and witnessing how girls are treated in that society.

Mackoty said child marriages are not only embedded in the culture, but poverty has exasperated the reason why families marry off their children.

“I think it’s a great opportunity now that we have these laws to think in this direction now to protect these girls,” he said.


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Advocates hope the new legislation will better protect children in Sierra Leone, but says more still needs to be done.

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“The government should invest more in… education,” Mackoty said. “They should invest in raising awareness.”

Sierra Leone joins a list of African countries that have banned child marriages.

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