Sierra Leone’s parliament has approved a law banning child marriage in a development lauded by activists as a major win for children’s rights.

The law criminalizes marrying girls under 18 years of age. It also prescribes jail terms of up to 15 years for offenders.

One-third of all girls are married before their 18th birthday in the west African country, according to UNICEF.

The country is home to 800,000 child brides, 400,000 of whom were married before age 15, the UN body says.

Often due to poverty, many girls in Sierra Leone fail to stay in school. They are then married off by their families in a bid to improve their financial situations or to pay off debt.

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