17:06 GMT +322 July 2019
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    Travellers queue for passport control at Stockholm airport Arlanda

    Sweden Hopeful to Stop Child Marriage, FGM With Travel Ban

    © AFP 2019 / Henrik Montgomery
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    Dozens of married children and thousands of female genital mutilation survivors have been identified in Sweden in recent years amid mass immigration into the Nordic country.

    Sweden's “red-green” government comprised of the Social Democrats and the Greens have together with the Centre Party and the Liberals prepared a 73-point settlement with measures against so-called honour-related crimes, including forced marriage and various types of oppression.

    Among other things, this involves introducing a travel ban for children under the age of 18 who are at risk of forced marriage or genital mutilation. The children's rights to hold a Swedish passport will also be restricted.

    The proposal has already mustered very broad support in the parliament. Apart from the bill's sponsors, it has been backed by the centre-right Moderates and the right-wing Sweden Democrats.

    “Unfortunately, we are getting more and more reports about children being taken out of Sweden to their home countries and mutilated in abominable ways, and no child should ever be involved in this”, Moderate Party legal spokesman Johan Forssell explained to Swedish Radio.

    The government investigators suggest that anyone who, in violation of the travel ban, abducts a child from Sweden, or promotes an illegal trip abroad, should be sentenced to fines or imprisonment for a maximum of one year.

    However, many believe this is too lenient.

    “It should be significantly higher. One like Britain has, a maximum of five years and perhaps with a minimum penalty of one or two years. A big raise”, Mikael Eskilandersson, the Sweden Democrats' spokesperson on family law issues, told Swedish Radio.

    “There is an obvious risk then that it is not seen as serious enough. For example, we know for certain that a group of people can sacrifice a member in their collective to commit this crime. If it is punished with a fine, there is a risk that you do not get the desired effect”, the Liberals' Juno Blom of the Justice Committee suggested.

    Still, the travel ban is not uncontroversial. The Justice Ombudsman suggested that there should be “strong reasons” to limit citizen's constitutional right to leave the country as they please and called for a more detailed analysis of the bill's consequences. According to Mikael Eskilandersson, though, the gravity of the crimes justifies the means.

    “Basically, it's the only way we can get at the criminals. Therefore, it is justified”, Eskilandersson said.

    According to Social Democrat Justice Minister Morgan Johansson, the proposal to tighten regulations is currently being prepared and will be published soon.

    Child marriage is a phenomenon most often linked to developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. In the autumn of 2010, the Swedish Tax Agency found 74 cases where one of the parties was under 18 at the time of marriage. A subsequent report called “Married against their will” showed that 8,500 young people aged 16 to 25 were worried about the perspective of forced marriage.

    In 2015, at the height of the migrant crisis, at least 132 married minors living in Sweden were identified, most of them girls from Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. One third of the couples already had children. At numerous occasions, the girl was assigned to the same address as her adult husband, despite the fact that the Swedish social services don't recognise child marriage.

    Female genital mutilation (FGM) is an excruciatingly painful procedure most associated with the Islamic world, such as parts of the the Maghreb, sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the Middle East. Each year, about 3 million girls are at risk of being subjected to some kind of genital mutilation. Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare estimated the number of FGM survivors living in Sweden at 40,000 girls and women (of which about 7,000 under the age of 18). The majority of them are from Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt, and the Gambia, which also happen to be the countries with the highest incidence of FGM seen internationally. Stockholm's Södersjukhuset hospital alone has seen a mind-boggling increase of 2,000 percent since 2003.

    In 2015, Sweden, a nation of 10 million, took in a record 163,000 asylum seekers from predominantly Muslim countries.

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    Tags:
    Female Genital Mutilation, child marriage, Scandinavia, Sweden
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