The Gambian Parliament has passed a law against child marriage two weeks after President Yahya Jammeh verbally prohibited the practice. Child marriage is now punishable by twenty years imprisonment.
“An adult who voluntarily enters into marriage on behalf of a child or who pushes a child into a marriage, helps, encourages or participates in the celebration of any wedding of a child, commits an offense and is liable to imprisonment not exceeding twenty years,” according to a text adopted by the National Assembly on Thursday.
The same document stated that, “an adult who learns about such a marriage proposal and willfully fails to report it commits an offense and is liable to imprisonment for ten years,” AFP reports.
An adult who learns about such a marriage proposal and willfully fails to report it commits an offense and is liable to imprisonment for ten years.
The draft law prohibiting child marriage was defended before the members of the Assembly by the Minister of Justice, Mama Fatima Singhateh.
“It aims to discourage a persistent practice in our society by criminalizing child marriage. The authorities hope that this law will have a deterrent effect on potential offenders,” Ms. Singhateh said.
The Gambian Constitution stipulates that marriage involves consenting adults but no legal provision previously sanctioned forced marriage in The Gambia.
The passage of the law comes a fortnight after an announcement by President Yahya Jammeh, prohibiting child marriage with immediate effect in the west African country.
“Starting today, July 6, child marriage is illegal and prohibited in Gambia,” he declared during an audience granted to Muslim dignitaries.
‘‘Now, whoever marries a girl who has not attained the age of 18 will be jailed 20 years in prison. The girl’s parents will do 21 years in prison and anyone with knowledge of this marriage and not having reported to authorities will spend 10 years in prison. The Imam and those who lead the wedding ceremony will also be sent to prison,” he added.
In June this year, Jammeh’s wife speaking at a United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) program also spoke in strong terms against the practice which was prevalent in the largely Muslim nation, which Jammeh has declared as the ‘Islamic Republic of Gambia.’
“Eliminating child marriage should be our priority, to allow young girls to develop and contribute to development. We can’t afford to allow child marriage to hold back our beautiful girls any longer,’‘ Zineb Jammeh said.