Germany Cracks Down on Forced Marriages

Chancellor Angela Merkel has joined a growing movement to criminalize forced marriages in Germany, which is growing less tolerant of practices among Muslim immigrants that clash with the nation’s liberal social values.

Forced marriages are generally imposed by young women’s families to keep them from dating. Prosecution is rare and must take place under assault laws that also outlaw threats and coercion.

Women’s’ groups have been increasingly pushing for forced marriages to be specifically criminalized, to ease prosecution and to send a strong signal that the practice violates German laws and traditions.

“I completely agree that forced marriages should be punishable as a criminal act,” Merkel said in a speech at a women’s conference held by her conservative Christian Democrats over the weekend, surprising and pleasing activists.

“We are thrilled that the chancellor has made such a clear statement,” said Sibylle Schreiber, a spokeswoman for the women’s rights group Terre des Femmes. “Finally she’s given a signal to the people that forcing your daughter into marriage is a crime.”

Approximately 3.3 million Muslims live in Germany, 70 percent of them of Turkish origin. Many lead secular lifestyles but some make strong, even extreme, efforts to preserve conservative values.

In recent years, several courts have upheld state-level bans on headscarves for Muslim women teaching in public schools. Immigration laws now require that foreign spouses be at least 18 years old and already have a basic knowledge of the German language.

The state of Baden-Wuerttemberg has proposed federal legislation criminalizing forced marriages. It passed twice, most recently in February, but has not been taken up by the lower house. Women’s activists were hopeful that Merkel’s push would accelerate the process.

Serap Cileli, a Turkish-German writer whose book — “We Are Your Daughters, Not Your Honor” — documents her escape from a forced marriage at age 24, welcomed Merkel’s initiative but said it was important to address the immigrant community directly.

“As long as we don’t teach the fathers, husbands and brothers to let the women live self-determined lives, this wound will never stop bleeding,” Cileli said.

Women’s groups and experts on immigration in Germany said it was difficult to tell how many women marry after threats or abuse, but enough flee such arrangements that several shelters remain busy.

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One Response to “Germany Cracks Down on Forced Marriages”

  1. Danilo Lemos says:

    A forced marriage, are always going to brands and harmful consequences for the victim in this case women. This needs a just, can not continue the practice of situations that go against the very meaning of marriage is love, and that with freedom and sincerity.
    Acess my blog. http://www.vivendoteologia.blogspot.com

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