Child Rights Coalition Calls on Sierra Leone Parliament to Pass Revised Bill Before Dissolution

Wednesday 5 April 2023

The Child Rights Coalition - Sierra Leone (CRC – SL) has called on Members of Parliament to pass the Child Rights Act 2022 before the dissolution of the Fifth Parliament this April. The Bill, which was gazetted in November 2022, is the outcome of the review process of the Child Rights Act (CRA) 2007, initiated after the Coalition released the Report on the Assessment of the implementation of the CRA in 2019.

The Coalition, which participated in all the processes leading to the development of the Bill held a press conference on the 5th April in Freetown and revealed that it had recommended a review of the CRA based on the major gaps revealed in the content and implementation of the 2007 Act. The new Bill proposes crucial reforms that aim to protect and promote the rights and responsibilities of every child in Sierra Leone.

The Coalition has commended Parliament for gazetting the document and applauded the Minister of Gender and Children’s Affairs for presenting the Bill to Parliament on 24th February 2023. The Coalition worked closely with the National Commission for Children (NCC) and the Human Rights Commission of Sierra Leone to engage the Legislative Committee and the Parliamentary Committee on Gender and Children’s Affairs.

During the parliamentary engagements and Legislative Scrutiny of the Bill, the Coalition highlighted key gaps in the current provisions and made crucial recommendations that were accepted by the Committees. These include Diversion to provide alternative measures for young offenders that promote reform and address the issue of juvenile justice in the country.

The Committees also accepted expanding the scope of the NCC to cover the establishment of a child-friendly complaints mechanism, and assigning responsibilities to a child based on their age and ability. They also included age of criminal responsibility for children in conflict with the law, covering all crimes including sexual offences at 14 years, age determination when a person appearing to be a child is brought before court, and responsibilities of both parents towards their child.

The Coalition is particularly pleased that Committees committed to expanding the Section in the Bill on Child Marriage into a Chapter that extensively provides for the Prohibition of Child Marriage. With 39% of girls in Sierra Leone married before the age of 18, and 13% married before the age of 15, child marriage and teenage pregnancy can have severe health, education, and protection consequences for girls, including increased risk of maternal mortality, limited access to education and economic opportunities.

The Coalition will continue to advocate to Members of Parliament and the Government to protect girls from all forms of violence, including Female Genital Mutilation, ensuring that they reach their full potential in life, free from fear or coercion, as outlined in the Child Rights Bill.

Retaining these provisions will not only ensure Sierra Leone complies with the UNCRC but also safeguard the future of the country.