PM criticized for views on tackling forced marriages

Teaching imams Danish law and instilling Danish cultural beliefs at an early age will do more to tackle forced marriages than tightening law, critics say

PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) argued in her opening speech in parliament yesterday that the punishment needs to be raised for forced marriages, which remain a national problem.

”We need to show the young people that we are on their side,” Thorning-Schmidt told parliament. “The government will increase the punishment for forced marriages.”

Despite the PM’s support of the victims of forced and arranged marriages, her method for tackling the problem was criticised.

According to Berlingske newspaper, not a single conviction for forced marriages has been made since the former government increased the punishment from two to four years in 2008.

A major problem is that many are held in private and are not registered with the Danish authorities making them invalid and not covered by the anti-forced-marriage legislation.

If the number of women seeking help is used as a guide, forced marriages are a growing problem in Denmark. According to the association of women’s crisis centres, LOKK, 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.

Thomas V Larsen, the head of the pro-integration organisation Center of Positiv Integration, argued that instead of tightening the law, the government should focus on changing cultural beliefs from an early age.

“To end arranged marriages, you need to focus in primary school on the message that people should have the freedom to choose whom they want to marry,” Larsen told Berlingske.

And City Council member Lars Aslan Rasmussen (Socialdemokraterne) argued that the government should instead focus their attention on Muslim imams.

“If an imam is a Danish citizen and forces young people to get married, he should have his right to perform marriages taken from him. If he is not a Danish citizen, he should be deported,” Rasmussen told Berlingske.

Rasmussen also supported forcing imams to take part in official training courses to teach them about the law regarding arranged marriages.