Forced marriages continue despite tightened legislation

Graduate student argues there are several major obstacles preventing the government from cracking down on forced marriages

Paramedics in southern Jutland needed (photo: iStock)
August 2nd, 2012 9:57 am| by admin
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Weak legislation is the reason that no-one has been convicted for forcing couples to marry, despite the punishment being doubled by the former government in 2008.

This is the verdict of PhD student, Sabba Mirza, writing in the legal trade journal Justitia, according to Politiken newspaper.

“All the organisations that are working in the field say that there is an increase in the number of arranged marriages. So when there are no cases for the courts then it could indicate that the rules aren’t good enough,” Mirza wrote.

Parliament voted to strengthen the wording of forced marriage legislation in 2008 so that the law now reads: “Forcing someone to enter marriage can result in a prison sentence of up to four years.”

According to Mirza, the authorities have three main problems in tackling forced marriages. First is that members do not have to act as witnesses, making arranged marriages hard to prove. Moreover, the law against forced marriages does not apply to marriages that are not recognised by Danish authorities. And lastly, the law focuses on preventing physical pressure even though young people are normally psychologically coerced.

“I think the law should be widened so that it also includes psychological pressure, which in many cases can be far more oppressive than real violence,” Mirza said.

Peter Skaarup (Dansk Folkeparti) thinks the government needs to look at the problem.

“I think the situation would definitely change if we broadened the criteria for how we define ‘force’,” Skaarup told Politiken. “It may help create a mentality change in the parallel societies where this happens and we know through studies that social control is often forced through social and psychological pressure and not just violence.”

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