Marriage (JollofNews) – President Yahya Jammeh on Wednesday announced an immediate ban on child marriage during an Eid al-Fitr address.

Speaking to Muslim elders after Eid prayers, he said there would be a minimum penalty of 20 years in jail for any man who marries a girl under 18. A girl’s parents could face 21 years imprisonment, he added.

“Child marriage is banned in The Gambia and I will place a very hefty sentence against the practice,” Jammeh said.

He added: “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.”

The President said he would introduce legislation later this month.

Child marriage is common in Gambia. According to a health survey carried out by the government last year, about 16 percent of women age 20 to 49 were married by 15 and 41 percent by the age of 18.

Nearly one-in-five had a child by the age of 19.