By MUHAMMED .S. BAH
Njundu Drammeh of the Child Protection Alliance when contacted, welcomed the pronouncement of President Jammeh on banning early marriage. He however added that further measures need to be taken to protect children from abuse and violence.
“We at CPA welcome the President’s pronouncement against child marriage in The Gambia and …. that a law be enacted as soon as possible to give legal effect to the pronouncement. Child marriage has devastating and long lasting consequences on the health, education and general well being of children, and the State has an obligation to protect its children.”
But Mr Drammeh added: “Certainly, legislation is not the only measure to protect children from abuse and violence. We need to put in place educational, social and administrative measures and programmes to ensure greater protection and enjoyment of all other rights. We need to also enhance the life skills of our children, especially the females, so that they are able to navigate the challenges of growing up and be able to protect themselves. We would need a vigorous implementation and enforcement of the Children’s Act 2005 and severely punish anyone who sexually abuses a child.”
As Muslim religious leaders and elders converged at the state house in Banjul on Wednesday, 6 July, 2016, in their traditional meeting with the executive after every Eid ul Fitr (Koriteh) prayers, President Yahya Jammeh made a pronouncement that early child marriage will be banned in The Gambia.
He told the religious elders that a bill will be taken to the National Assembly for legislation before July 22 this year banning any marriage in which the bride is below the age of 18 years.
President Jammeh said the offence will attract 10 years of prison without the option of a fine for the bridegroom or husband and 21 years for the parents. He also said both imam and emissaries involved in the marriage will be liable for committing an offence and will face similar penalties as well.
The ban will also include forced marriages, irrespective of age.
He said the district chiefs, alkalolu and regional governors should be vigilant in enforcing this law when it comes into being.
However, this banning of early marriage is just a pronouncement from the president and is not yet made law to be enforceable in all parts of the country.