Sweden to stop recognition of child marriages carried out overseas

Marriages involving a minor and carried out overseas will no longer be recognized in Sweden under any circumstances after parliament approved a change in the law on Wednesday afternoon.

Sweden to stop recognition of child marriages carried out overseas
The new law will come into force from the start of next year. File photo: Jessica Gow / TT

Under previous legislation, some foreign marriages involving an under-18-year-old could be recognized in Sweden, as long as the marriage was valid in the country where it took place, the minor was aged above 15 (the age of sexual consent in Sweden) at the time, and both parties entered into the marriage voluntarily.

But under the new amendment, no marriages involving a person aged under 18 at the time of marriage will be considered legal or valid.

“This is a long-awaited law, with the best interest of the child at the centre,” said Sara Mohammed from the non-profit organization GAPF which works to prevent honour-related violence and child marriage. “We must protect girls from becoming mothers when they themselves are still children, we must not deprive them of their future.”

The planned law change was first announced in May this year, when Migration Minister Helene Fritzon presented the bill and the government said previous moves to tighten laws against child marriage in 2004 and 2014 still failed to sufficiently protect children.

Earlier this year, Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) withdrew an information brochure aimed at people moving to the country and married to children after it provoked widespread outrage.

The leaflet included an explanation of why Swedish law forbids marriage to minors and that having sex with someone under the age of 15 is a crime, regardless of whether a marriage is in place or not.

Estimates from the Migration Agency put the number of children who arrived in Sweden married at 132 in 2016. Of these, all but three of the children were girls, most were aged 16 or 17 and roughly a third of them had children of their own.

The new amendment will come into force from January 1st, 2019. However, child marriages recognized in Sweden before it came into force will not be automatically ruled invalid after this change.


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