Netherlands: Muslim youth fear forced marriage

Netherlands: Muslim youth fear forced marriage

Many Dutch Muslim youth are afraid that they'll be married off during vacation and then left in their homeland by their parents.  This according to the increasing number of youth who find their way to social workers and hotlines.  The government is only slowly moving to help.

In secondary schools in the big cities it regularly happens that after the vacation a couple of girls or boys are missing.  In the end it turns out often that they were married off against their will during vacation and left in their parents' homeland.
According to social workers some Muslim youth get more anxious about being married off as the summer vacation approaches.  This can be seen also by the peak in the number of phone calls at the five hotlines of honor-related violence in the Netherlands.  Vangnet in Amsterdam got 21 calls last June, twice as many as the month before.
According to Morccan-Dutch parliament member Khadija Arib (Labour), the problem has been going on for a long time and is even bigger than the number of requests for help shows.  She says this is a serious problem that's been going on for years.  "The fact is that in the Netherlands every year dozens of girls don't come back from vacation.  I know for certain that hundreds and possibly thousands live in fear of being married off."

According to Arib these are youth around 18 years old. Mostly girls, but sometimes also boys.  They are of Moroccan and  Turkish, but more and more often also of Iraqi, Iranian, Pakistani and Afghani origin.  "Often they agree on site under great social pressure to a marriage, and then later regret it enormously."

The ministry of justice started a national information campaign last June, together with immigration organizations, on website such as Hyves.  Youth are made aware of the problem and encouraged to take precautionary measures. But according to Arib the Dutch government is not doing enough and should take an example from England.
She says England is years ahead of the Netherlands.  "They have there special team which take action if a girl is married off in the land of origin.  They make contact with the embassies, go to those countries and bring the girls back."

In May Rotterdam started an experiment following the British model, that according to Arib deserved to be copied nationally.  Girls who are afraid of being married off during the vacation can make a special declaration.  In this declaration they say they are not willing to be married off and give the school administration permission to call in the police if they do not come back after vacation.  This gives the Dutch government greater legal possibilities to bring back the girls.

The problem is that the Dutch law is not up to par on that point.  In contrast to England, marrying off a minor against their will is not criminal.  Khadija Arbi asks to change the law.  She says there should be more legal possibilities to deal with parents or family members who are guilty of forced marriage.

Source: RNW (Dutch)

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