Promoted from the diaries by streiff. Promotion does not imply endorsement.
Ahead of general elections, child marriage has become a hot button issue in Sweden. Due to their fear of appearing culturally insensitive, politicians are divided over what action to take. And this issue is only one piece of the government’s “broader struggle to find a balance between efforts to integrate a large number of new immigrants and preserve a Swedish way of life.”
Sweden Democrats leader Jimmie Akesson speaks his mind on the issue:
I don’t know what there is to think about. It is, frankly, totally sick that one can’t just simply say no to something as bizarre as grown men having the right to marry children.
Juno Blom, a politician from the opposition Liberal Party offers some insight:
Sweden has been bad at providing people who come here with clear information about how our system works, about this society’s views on children’s rights, gender equality, family policies, and parents’ and guardians’ responsibilities.
While we insist that Sweden protects children’s rights and that we promote a child-centered approach to children’s welfare, we have allowed children of foreign backgrounds to live as married women with older men.
In 1973, Sweden banned marriages if one or both parties were underage. However, if the marriage takes place abroad, it is recognized. So, children and teenagers are simply brought to another country for wedding ceremonies and returned to Sweden.
There have been proposals in Parliament, most recently in May, to prevent this. The Sweden Democrats, who are ahead in the polls, are hoping to turn this proposal into law.
Zubeyde Demirörs, a Swedish social worker, was born and raised in Sweden and was therefore a Swedish citizen. Against her wishes, at the age of 15, her parents took her to their hometown in Turkey, where she was married to a 37-year-old man. After sixteen years and three children with this man, she ended her marriage. “Practically the whole family turned against me and there was little support to seek from Swedish society at the time.”
Demirörs, now 45-years-old, “runs a shelter for victims of honor-based violence and oppression.” She says “people see young girls as their sons’ tickets to Europe.” She adds:
“In my work, I hear similar stories every day.”
“When it comes to forced marriage, the summer is the worst period of the year. This time of year my phone just doesn’t stop ringing. May, June, July — that’s when many girls are taken back to their parents’ home countries, mostly to rural parts of the Middle East and Africa.”
Demirörs fears the government’s proposed new law would not make much difference.
“Over the years, I’ve seen legal amendments, I’ve seen campaigns … And still, we keep coming back to square one. Now we have new challenges, with a large number of people coming to Sweden from societies where honor culture is the norm.”
“Sweden needs to take proper responsibility for the immigrants it takes in. That involves extending the same protection and rights to all children, regardless of whether they are ethnically Swedish or not.”
“But our politicians are cowardly. They are afraid of taking a principled stance on these issues for fear of being labeled culturally insensitive.”
“It’s different in our neighboring countries. In Denmark and Norway, they’re not afraid of being called racists. And over the years many girls — and boys — in Sweden have suffered for that cowardice.”
I’m pretty sure that Muslims don’t worry too much about how to integrate non-Muslims into their countries. Clearly, Muslims would not give a second thought about appearing culturally insensitive in the eyes of non-Muslim immigrants or the world.
What action should Sweden take? In the face of girls as young as six-years-old being married to older men, I don’t see that there’s even room for debate. It’s wrong. When immigrants migrate to a foreign country, they must adapt to the laws and the norms of that country.