The Danish parliament has approved a government proposal that will crack down on social control in the country and introduce more stringent punishments for forced marriage and maintaining individuals in wedlock through coercion.
Among other things, the law will ban religious marriages involving minors, as the parties emphasised that social control doesn't belong in Denmark.
“We have now made it a criminal offence to enter into religious marriage under the age of 18 and using force to prevent others from getting a divorce,” Immigration Minister Mattias Tesfaye said, as quoted by the newspaper Fredericia Avisen.
“We must simply become better at protecting victims of social control. Handing out expulsions and prison sentences to abusers is an important tool,” he added.
More specifically, religious leaders and others conducting marriages involving minors that have not been approved by the state can be punished with prison sentences of up to two years or be expelled from Denmark. The same punishment goes for parents who let their children enter into such marriages.
Meanwhile, the punishment for keeping someone in marriage through force has been increased from two to four years – and violators may be deported.
Furthermore, negative social control has been added to criminal law so that it can be punished as psychological violence and thus yield prison sentences of up to three years. This includes the use of religious divorce contracts intended to keep a person in a marriage or otherwise control the person. Religious preachers and other individuals who contribute to such contracts will be punished for aiding and abetting psychological violence.
Lastly, it will be possible to confiscate the passports of minors or refuse their issuance if there are grounds to suspect they will be forced to travel abroad for forced marriage.
The law will come into effect on 15 March.