Gambia’s president Yahya Jammeh has announced the criminalization of child marriages in his country placing a minimum 20-year jail term for any man found guilty.
During his Eid-ul-Fitr address on Wednesday marking the end of Ramadan, the controversial Jammeh told Muslim elders that even the parents of a girl who is forced into early marriage could face 21 years in prison, local media report.
His pronouncement follows his wife’s condemnation of the practice at the launch of the #EndChildMarriage campaign in the country last month supported by the United Nations Children Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
Gambia became the 13th African Nation to launch the AU Campaign to End Child Marriage in Africa.
President Jammeh said he will introduce the legislation this month to end the widely practiced phenomenon in the country.
“We are destroying the future of our children who should be going to school. I will jail even the imam who ties the knot and destroy the marriage. And if anyone knows about this and refuses to report it, we will send you to jail for 10 years,” he added.
Child marriage is not prohibited by law in Gambia and some girls are married off as young as the age of 12 years, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa said in a report.