GERMANY confronts the problem of forced marriages of Muslim girls, many underage

Thousands of women and young girls in Germany, the majority from Muslim families and many of them minors, face forced marriage in the course of a year.

Express Tribune  The first federal study of its kind found 3,443 recorded cases in 2008 — the most recent year with sufficient data — in which people living in Germany were forced to wed or threatened with a forced marriage. Most were between the ages of 18 and 21, although nearly a third of them were under the age of 17.

More women and girls living in Germany are being forced into marriage under the threat of violence than previously thought, according to a new study released by the German government on Wednesday. Almost all were female and the children of staunchly religious immigrant families, most frequently from countries including Turkey, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

The new study was presented Wednesday in Berlin by Family Minister Kristina Schröder and the federal integration commissioner, Maria Böhmer, both members of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union. “Those who force their children against their will to marry someone they don’t love, or who is a complete stranger, are committing brutal violence against them,” Schröder said in a statement.

In 2008, 3,443 people sought help at counseling and information centers because they had already been, or were being, forced into marriage. Most of those victims were women or girls, but 6 percent were young men, who, like many of the women, sought help because they were threatened with violence if they did not go through with the marriage.

The report revealed that one-third of victims were threatened with death if they did not go through with the forced marriage. The vast majority of the victims of forced marriage come from households with Muslim parents.

More than half were beaten or otherwise physically abused to convince them to marry, while more than one in four were threatened with weapons or told they would be killed if they did not go through with the marriage. 44 per cent of the people at threat or subjected to forced marriages held German passports.

The study was carried out by a private foundation and a women’s rights organization based on data provided by victims help centres, schools and immigrant associations.

Germany last year passed legislation against forced marriages, making it a criminal act punishable by up to five years in prison and providing means for victims taken abroad to return to Germany. Previously, the practice had been considered under the law as a particularly severe form of coercion.