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    Swedish Police Brace for Forced Marriage 'High Season' Amid Zero Convictions

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    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (161)

    With the summer vacation approaching, the "high season" of forced marriages, where young girls are often lured abroad to be married off, is creeping closer, the Swedish police have warned. Despite their efforts, the Swedish authorities seem unable to do anything about it.

    According to statistics from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå), 81 cases of forced marriage, abduction and deception with the intention to marry somebody off were reported last year. The majority of these cases happened during the summer vacation and involved high school children, which is quite an embarrassment for Sweden, whose "feminist" government sees itself as a champion of woman's rights.

    "During the vacation, young people can leave the country without anyone in their vicinity, such as school teachers or friends responding to their disappearance," Jenny Edin, prosecutor for honor-related crimes at the National Operations Department (Noa) said in a statement on the police's website.

    Afterwards, girls return to the class in autumn already married. Sometimes they even stay in another country. It also happens that the girls themselves respond. If they manage to get to a phone, they may call the Swedish embassy in the country they are in, the Swedish authorities or simply someone they know in Sweden. In these cases the police are able to find out what has happened and start proceedings, the police statement said.

    Refugees sleep outside the entrance of the Swedish Migration Agency's arrival center for asylum seekers at Jagersro in Malmo, Sweden, early November 20, 2015
    In Sweden, forced marriage is a crime that leads to up to four years in prison, yet offenses of this kind are often next to impossible to solve, especially if they happened in another country. Another obstacle is that the victims are forced to testify against their own families in court, a frightening perspective which many would like to avoid. This is why no one has been sentenced since the law penalizing forced marriage was enacted.

    "In most cases, forced marriage involves coercion for both parties. The difference is that the girls are often very young, while the boys are older and sometimes have sexual experience. The boys' actions are by far less limited than girls', who often have no room for action at all," Jan Dandanelle, an expert on honor-related crimes, said in the police statement.

    In honor-centered cultures, the needs of the collective rank far above those of the individual. What is best for the family is considered to be most important. Therefore, people may not necessarily choose who they will marry or if they will marry at all. Sometimes, marriage is used to restore a family's honor, which is often linked to women's chastity.

    Sweden saw the numbers of forced marriages and child brides, both of which were previously unbeknown to the Nordic country, take off since the migrant crisis, when tens of thousands asylum seekers, mostly from the Mid-Eastern countries, arrived in Sweden.

    In March, Mikael Eskilandersson of the Sweden Democrats Party advocated that Sweden should follow in neighboring Denmark's footsteps and introduce a "24-year rule" in an opinion piece in the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet. According to Danish law, residence permits are given to couples where both spouses are aged 24 and over, which is said to specifically target exploitation, coercion and forced marriage.

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    Refugee and Migrant Crisis in Europe (161)


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    women's rights, children's rights, forced marriage, Scandinavia, Sweden
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