Child marriage and child pregnancy are a major problem in the country, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. Childhood pregnancy accounts for at least 40% of these deaths. Child marriage is technically illegal in Sierra Leone where the law states that you cannot marry before 18, or before 16 if there is parental or equivalent consent. Yet, it has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world with 44% of girls and women married before they reach 18. There is also a huge pressure from parents on many girls living in slum areas to enter into early sexual activity as a way to earn and support the family. This is another issue that FORWARD tackles through projects with our partners in Sierra Leone.

Country Statistics

  • Prevalence of FGM: 88% of girls and women have undergone FGM (UNICEF 2013)
  • Campaign against FGM: 26% of girls and women in Sierra Leone think FGM should end (UNICEF 2013)
  • Name of FGM: Sunna, Bondo or Sonde
  • Legal Status of FGM: FGM is legal
  • Prevalence of child marriage: 18% of girls are married by the age of 15, and 44% by the age of 18 (UNICEF 2014)
  • Legal status of child marriage: It is illegal to marry under the age of 18 but you can marry from 16 with parental consent
  • Maternal mortality: 1,100 per 100,000 live births  (WHO 2013)
  • Gender based violence: 94% of displaced households reported sexual assault, including rape, torture and slavery during the civil war (Physicians for Human Rights 2002)
  • Gender Inequality Index: 183 of 187 countries (UNDP 2013)