Politico Europe has an interesting story about a political issue currently roiling Sweden. The ruling Social Democrat-Green Party coalition is taking fire for a flat-footed response to the problem while opposition parties which support tighter restrictions on immigration are making hay of it and doing well in the polls.
Although Sweden is known for its commitment to child welfare, it is failing to extend those same protections to its immigrant population, activists and lawmakers say. Opponents accuse the government of being overly cautious in order to avoid being seen as culturally insensitive.
Official data suggests child marriages are relatively rare among Sweden’s newly arrived immigrant population. A 2016 report by the Swedish Migration Agency only identified 132 underage asylum seekers who stated they were married when they arrived in Sweden…
But the real number is probably higher, authorities caution, as many cases likely go unreported.
The discussion recently peaked over a pamphlet the government put out on the issue of child brides. That pamphlet, titled Information for one who is Married to a Child (cover image above), did state that sex with children under 15 was illegal in Sweden, but the tone of the pamphlet was criticized for being far too lenient. From Israel National News:
Commentator and journalist Annika Hernroth-Rothstein reported on the new pamphlet and wrote on her Facebook page: “The irony is that in Syria, having sex with and impregnating a child leads to a 9-year stint in prison whereas Sweden rewards the same behavior with financial aid and a helpful pamphlet.”…
The pamphlet’s introduction expresses opposition to the practice in principle: “Children have the right to be children and not to have the responsibility arising from a marriage. Children should go to school, educate themselves, develop as their own person, develop their own hobbies. Early marriages often lead to early parenting, which gives rise to increased risks for the child in both the short and the long term. Marrying early can also lead to physical and mental ill health, an increased risk of living in poverty or being subjected to oppression and violence.”…
Although the brochure prohibits intercourse or living with persons under the age of 15, thus not contradicting Swedish law’s age of consent, Hernroth-Rothstein explains that “technically it…’recommends against’ having sex with an underage child BUT nowhere in the pamphlet does it say what will happen if you have sex with a child, nor does it pose any threats against the person who chooses to have sex with a child.” The pamphlet calls such acts “inappropriate”.
But the opposition parties want more than a gently worded pamphlet. Last month they proposed a ban on flights for families suspected of planning to send their teenage daughters abroad to be married before returning to Sweden. This is apparently a relatively common practice which peaks in the summer months:
“People see young girls as their sons’ tickets to Europe,” said Zubeyde Demirörs, a 45-year-old social worker who runs a shelter for victims of honor-based violence and oppression.
Demirörs has personal experience of the issues she works on. She was 15 years old and had just finished ninth grade — the last year of compulsory schooling in Sweden — when her parents took her to their hometown in Turkey to marry a man 22 years her senior with whom she would have three children.
After 16 years Demirörs got a divorce and immediately was shunned by her extended family for doing so. Now she wants Sweden to protect other girls like her from becoming child brides:
Sweden, she said, 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,” she said. “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.”
She’s right that things are very different in neighboring countries. The NY Times published a piece this month about laws in Denmark which mandate that the children of immigrants in communities deemed ghettoes must have training in Danish values starting at the age of one. That law seems harsh but Sweden is an example of the alternative, a soft approach to integration which results in misery for young girls who are raised in third world honor cultures that treat them as second-class citizens.