Government targets forced marriages

Increased punishment and the expulsion of imams among the efforts aimed at curbing forced religious marriages

November 26th, 2012 8:59 pm| by admin

Updated: 28/11/2012, 13:16. After government's final announcement some of the facts have been changed. The headline was also changed to reflect that the government was targeting forced marriages, not simply religious Muslim marriages.

TV2 News reported this evening that the government will announce a package tomorrow aimed at curbing forced Muslim marriages.

The legislation will make it easier to expel imams who carry out forced religious marriages, and increase the maximum sentence to four years for those found guilty of forcing others to marry.

TV2 News interviewed a Danish citizen of Moroccan decent, 'Sarah', who revealed how she had been taken to Morocco at the age of 15 and forced to marry her cousin.

"I was totally dead during that period; I wasn't myself," Sarah told TV2, adding that she was forced to engage in intercourse with her new husband on their wedding night. "My aunt told me that the guests would not go home until they saw blood on the sheets." 

Sarah, however, warned against associating forced marriages with Islam, saying: "In Islam, it says in black and white that one must not force a person to marry another."

Still, her experience is one of the reasons the government is pushing for tougher legislation. 

"Everyone should have the same rights when they live in Denmark, regardless of whether they have Muslim parents," the social affairs and integration minister, Karen Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), told TV2 News. "Everyone should have the same rights to freedom, and that is what we want to help people achieve."

PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt foreshadowed the proposal during her opening speech to parliament in October, saying that the government would increase punishments for forced marriages to "show young people that we are on their side". 

Although it was reported earlier this year that there had not been a single conviction for forced marriages since the former Venstre-Konservative government increased the punishment in 2008, LOKK, the association of women’s crisis centres, said that the number of women seeking help – either because of a pending forced marriage or the threat of one – rose six-fold between 2005 and 2010 from 101 women to 660.

A representative for the Dansk Islamisk Center told TV2 that his organisation welcomed the government's proposal.