#Article (Archive)

Child protection activists welcome President’s ban on child marriage

Jul 11, 2016, 10:36 AM | Article By: Halimatou Ceesay

Child activists across the country have shown their appreciation of President Yahya Jammeh’s declaration banning child marriage in The Gambia.

The Gambian leader on 6 July 2016 at State House announced the banning of child marriage and forced marriage in the country.

He said a law to that effect will be enacted by the National Assembly, latest 21 July 2016.

“As from today, child marriage under 18 years is illegal in The Gambia,” President Jammeh declared.

“The Ministry of Interior should work with the Ministry of Local Government, and the Ministry of Information should disseminate the information before 22 July.”

Jammeh stated further that the law will come with penalties, against parents, husbands of victims and fathers who will be jailed for 20 and 21 years; and religious leaders who preside over the marriage will face the consequences.

“Those that force their daughters to get married to husbands not their choice will be jailed for 10 years.”

He said child marriage exposes victims who are under 18 to numerous diseases that affect their health condition.

He, therefore, proposed a 20-year sentence for culprits.

This declaration by the President has been highly welcomed by many people across the country, especially child protection activists.

Speaking to The Point at the weekend, Lisa Camara, the Guardian Global End FGM Campaign Media Coordinator, said the announcement was not a surprise to her, as during a recent function of first ladies, the Gambian First Lady promised to do everything in her power to protect Gambian children.

“Listening to all those testimonies of victims of child marriage plus watching the videos of the caravan,” Lisa explained, “it was obvious as the mother to all Gambian children, Her Excellency the First Lady would continue the fight, and the President’s declaration banning child marriage is a perfect example of that promise.”

She said further: “To the campaigners, this is not the end of the road; the announcement means we have a lot more work to do as we owe it to the people to educate them about the dangers associated with child marriage. Let us come together in creating a safe Gambia for our children who are the future of our nation.”

Lamin K. Saidy of Child Protection Alliance and the National Coordinator of Safe Hands for Girls, in his remarks, said banning child marriage is welcomed news to child protection actors.

“Child marriage compromises all the other rights of children such as education and health, he said, adding that it exposes the child to dependency as a result of lack of education and skills.”

Despite the pronouncement, he added, they want the process of the bill drafting to be expedited.

The state and NGOs should ensure their structures engage the communities on the issue of forced marriage, he added.

“I think men who are accepting such wives are automatically committing suicide.”

President Jammeh in his pronouncement banning forced and child marriage in The Gambia, said no individual will be given the leverage to seek external support for the implementation of the laws and penalties for child marriage culprits.

The President also called on regional governors, chiefs and the police to report suspected cases of forced and child marriage, adding that any attempt to hide information and the commissioning of such crimes “will cost the suspects dearly”.