Gambia bans child marriage, vows hefty sentences

web_photo_child_marriage_LaGambia_Tanzania_09072016

Image of a marriage on the African continent.

BANJUL - Gambian President Yahya Jammeh has announced a ban on child marriage in the predominantly Muslim nation, threatening heavy jail terms for those who break the new rules.

Speaking to a group of Muslim elders in Banjul on Wednesday, Jammeh said: "As from today, July 6, child marriage is illegal and is banned in The Gambia".

"Anyone who marries a girl under 18 years will spend 20 years in jail. The girl&39;s parents would spend 21 years in jail and anyone who knows about it and fails to report the matter to the authorities would spend 10 years in jail," he added.

"The imam and those that preside over the marriage ceremony would also be sent to jail.

"If you want to know whether what I am saying is true or not, try it tomorrow and see."

Jammeh instructed lawmakers to pass legislation reflecting the new ban before 21 July.

In December, legislators passed a bill criminalising female circumcision and introducing prison terms of up to three years for anyone flouting the ban, a month after Jammeh branded the practice outdated and ordered its immediate cessation.

Jammeh declared in November that the practice was not required by Islam - the religion of about 95 percent of the country&39;s 1.8 million population - and that it should be consigned to history, according to a government spokesman.