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Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio this week signed a new law that will ban child marriage in the West African nation, a move aimed at tackling the practice in a country where hundreds of thousands of girls marry before turning 18, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Prohibition of Child Marriage Act will implement strict penalties and fines for people complicit in the marriage of a girl below the age of 18, including jail terms of at least 15 years, a fine of around $4,000, or both.

Those facing penalties include the groom, the parents or guardians of the child bride and even wedding attendants, according to the BBC.

The legislation also bans men from living with underage girls and establishes a compensation package for those who are married or become pregnant before turning 18.

Parliament approved the law last month and Bio signed it Tuesday in a ceremony organized by his wife, First Lady Fatima Bio in the capital, Freetown.

“Freedom has come for our women,” the president said during the ceremony that was attended by feminist groups and West African first ladies.

Human rights advocates welcomed the law as a watershed moment.

There were 800,000 child brides in Sierra Leone in 2017, according to the United Nations children organization, UNICEF. Even so, the rate of child marriage has declined in the West African country, with 30 percent of girls married before 18 in 2017, down from 37 percent 25 years earlier.

The country has a population of nine million.

Child marriage leads to lifelong disadvantages, such as exclusion from education and economic opportunities, Save the Children’s Patrick Analo told AFP.

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