By Alhagie Jobe
Gambia’s National Assembly has been instructed by The Executive to called for an extra-ordinary session on July 21, 2016, to legislate and pass into law the child and forced marriage ban and amend the Children’s Act 2005, The Fatu Network has confirmed.
The passing into law of the child and force marriage motion is expected to be tabled by Justice Minister Mama Fatima Singhateh a day before the celebration of Yahya Jammeh’s July 22nd take over anniversary.
President Jammeh on July 6th, 2016, during his traditional interface with Muslim elders on Eid Ul-Fitr celebration at the end of Ramadan, announced the ban on child and forced marriages for girls below 18 years, threatening 20 years jail term for those who breach the law.
“As from today child marriage below 18 years is illegal in The Gambia. It must be tabled before the National Assembly and then we work on the Act before July 22nd” Jammeh declared, and tasked the Ministers of the Interior, Local Government and the Information to work on the motion and as well disseminate the information.
Dictator Jammeh then warned parents and Imams who perform the ceremonies saying stiff penalties and disciplinary measures will be taken against parents and husbands of victims. He said child marriage has over the years exposed victims to so many diseases that affect their health and that the practice must be stopped immediately. “If you want to know whether what I am saying is true or not, try it tomorrow and see,” he warned.
To start implementing the ban which has not yet been passed by the National Assembly into law, Dictator Jammeh has since ordered social workers, governors, chiefs, alkalolu and the police to report suspected cases of child marriages in their various areas. He also warned that anyone who knows that such is practiced in his/her area and do not report that matter to the relevant authorities would be dealt with accordingly.
In December last year, Mr Jammeh also outlawed female genital mutilation (FGM), with a prison sentence of up to three years for those that ignored the ban. He said the practice had no place in Islam or in modern society. Three-quarters of women in the mostly Muslim country have had the procedure, according to Unicef.