Rotterdam begins memorandum to prevent forced marriages of young girls

The Rotterdam council has begun a trial to prevent girls from being forced into arranged marriages during religious and cultural holiday periods. It is reported that every year, dozens of Dutch girls with Moroccan, Turkish, and Pakistani backgrounds fail to return to the Netherlands after international travels during the holidays. Most of these girls, the council says, are married off in their origin countries without much choice. The council has proposed issuing a declaration in which pupils will be asked to sign indicating whether or not they wish to enter into an arranged marriage. If a pupil is forced against her signed declaration, a school can call the police to begin an investigation. The proposal is borrowed from one in Great Britain, where the initiative has been in practice for some time; if a girl is forced into an arranged marriage, immediate action is taken – the British embassy employs special staff who try to gets the girls back to Britain. While the Netherlands does not have such specialized staff as of yet, the concern over honor-related violence and marriages has been an issue for some time now in Rotterdam, says executive councilor Jantine Kriens. It is believed that dozens of girls are affected each year.

Sweden: Government funds fight against honor crimes

The Swedish government announced that it had set aside 32 million kronor ($4.9 million) to fund local efforts to combat honor crimes. Integration and Gender Equality Minster Nyamko Sabuni said many youths, mainly girls, who are the victims of honor oppression are living in very difficult conditions, sometimes risking their lives. The announcement came as Swedish police were investigating whether a 16-year old girl who died from falling from a fourth-floor balcony was the victim of an honor killing. Her stepfather and brother have reportedly been charged with murder.

Sweden: Sweden takes aim at honor crimes

The oppression of women and girls in the name of family honor has become an urgent problem in Sweden with the arrival of growing numbers of immigrants over the past few years, the country’s integration minister said Tuesday. Nyamko Sabuni, herself a Congolese immigrant and Sweden’s first black minister, said in an interview with The Associated Press that Swedes should not accept traditions that clash with the Scandinavian nation’s fundamental values, including equality between the sexes. Sabuni has angered many Muslims in the past by calling for a ban on headscarves for teenage girls in Sweden. “Honor-related violence is an urgent gender equality issue,” said Sabuni, 37. “Everyone who works with it – the police, social services and women’s shelters – say that we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg. It’s a big problem.” Many European countries have reported so-called honor crimes, in which women are punished or even killed by relatives for committing adultery or violating other sexual mores. But Sabuni, who took office with the center-right government in October, said the problem was much bigger than the handful of murders that have gained major media attention in Sweden in recent years. “I know there are girls who cannot choose with whom to marry. I know there are girls whose genitals are mutilated. I know there are girls whose virginity is checked before they marry,” Sabuni said. “For me it’s unacceptable that these phenomena exist in a democratic country.” About 12 percent of Sweden’s 9 million residents are foreign-born, and the proportion is growing. Last year, Sweden received about 80,000 immigrants – the highest number ever – led by an influx of Iraqi refugees. Many Muslims in Sweden have lashed out at Sabuni, saying they feel unfairly targeted by her campaign against honor crimes. They say such traditions date back hundreds of years in some Middle Eastern and African countries and have nothing to do with Islam. Sabuni, who was raised in a Muslim family but considers herself an agnostic, said: “I’m not that interested in what Islam stipulates. I am very interested in saying that some traditions, some practices are completely unacceptable and illegal.” Sabuni has also angered Muslims by calling for withdrawing state support to religious schools and a ban on headscarves for girls under 15, although those proposals have not won support in the four-party government. “Everything suggests this tradition is emerging here in Sweden, it’s not something you bring from your former home country,” Sabuni said about the Islamic headscarf. “And that brings the question: What is happening in our society that makes parents put headscarves on their children?” Unlike in France, there are no laws against wearing religious symbols in schools in Sweden. Sabuni said Sweden would be able to absorb the growing tide of refugees, but added that discrimination and self-imposed seclusion by some immigrants were hampering integration. “We have a generation today that does not really feel Swedish. Many with an African background, like myself, are not addressed as Afro-Swedes, but as Congolese or Somalis or something else,” she said. “In that respect I feel that we have failed.”