The President  of Sierra Leone Julius Maada Bio announced late Tuesday that a bill prohibiting child marriage had been signed into law to protect girls in Sierra Leone, where roughly one-third marry before the age of 18.

The law is widely celebrated. It makes marriage with a girl under the age of 18 illegal.

Offenders could face up to 15 years in prison, a fine of about $4,000 or both. Witnesses to such marriages will also risk jail or fines.

Bio stated on the social media platform X that he has always thought that the future of  Sierra Leone belongs to women. Future generations of girls must thrive in Sierra Leone, where they are safe, equal and empowered.

Sierra Leone has 800,000 child brides, with half of them marrying before the age of 15, according to the United Nations Children's Agency.

First Lady Fatima Bio was a strong supporter of the bill, which improves access to education and support services for children affected by child marriage.

When it was enacted by parliament as a bipartisan law in June, Fatima referred to it as "a significant step forward in protecting the rights of our next generation."

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