On Wednesday, the German Ministry for Family Affairs presented the findings of its first study on forced marriage in Germany – which brought about alarming results. The study was commissioned by the Ministry and conducted by the women’s rights organisation Terres des Femmes and the Hamburg-based Lawaetz Foundation. It is based on information provided by more than 800 consultation clinics across the country for people who are either threatened or affected by forced marriages. According to the information provided by these clinics, they registered roughly 3400 cases of forced marriages in 2008 – and these numbers only reflect those that tried to seek help; the actual number of forced marriages is expected to be much higher. The vast majority of these cases (95%) affected women; approximately 30% of them were 17 years or younger, ca. 40% of them were between 18 and 21 years old. Furthermore, most of those affected (roughly 60%) have an immigration background and 83.4% come from Muslim families. Family Minister Kristina Schröder reminded that forced marriages were a statutory offense in Germany; yet, she also acknowledged that ‘the reality is more complicated than a flick through the law book may lead one to believe’ (DW).
Due to the over-representation of migrant families in the findings, Schröder handed the study over to Maria Böhmer, the government’s commissioner for integration. Böhmer is now developing strategies to tackle forced marriages; she wants to make schools more aware of the problem and, once again, stresses the need to develop migrants’ language skills, as language is key for a self-confident, freely-chosen life, independent of parents. Schröder announced the introduction of a national telephone hotline for victims of violence or forced marriage. The opposition criticized these measures as merely symbolic; most of them will not be implemented in practice until the end of 2012 and, therefore, not offer immediate help to those affected.