Nonwhite immigration to Switzerland has caused a surge in the number of forced marriages in that country, with at least 119 reported cases this year already.
The Center of Competence against Forced Marriage, or Zwangsheirat, reports that the perpetrators and victims are all from Eritrea, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria.
Muslims pray outside the Swiss parliament building, Bern, in 2010.
According to a report in The Local’s Switzerland news service, of the 119 cases reported so far, 26 cases involved females under the age of 16, with some as young as ten years old.
According to Zwangsheirat’s director, Anu Sivaganesan, the latest figures are a “marked rise,” given only five cases involving victims under 16 were discovered between 2005, when the center began its work, and 2015.
Sivaganesan said the rise in the number of cases “could be partly explained by the increase in asylum seekers coming to Switzerland.”
But, she said, it was “also due to increased awareness of the issue among doctors, social workers, and teachers in Switzerland since the country amended its laws on forced marriage in 2013.”
This means that the practice of forced marriages is equally prevalent among the already settled “legal” nonwhite immigrants in Switzerland.
Many minors who were forced into marriage outside Switzerland report themselves to the authorities once they arrive in the country, she said, because being in a place they consider safe allows them to “dare to oppose” their situation.
Once identified, the center works with victims to separate them from their spouse and “give minors back a part of their childhood,” said Sivaganesan.
The act of forcing a person into marriage or a civil partnership is illegal in Switzerland and carries a jail term of at least five years. Consensual marriage is illegal for anyone under 18.
In June this year, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas announced that his country would “not recognise polygamy or marriages involving minors.”
“No one who comes here has the right to put his cultural values or religious beliefs above our law,” he told the Bild newspaper.
Although polygamy is formally outlawed, such relationships are often “quietly tolerated,” Bild said.
In addition, it was revealed that the federal state of Bavaria alone had registered 550 cases of brides aged under 18, and 161 under 16, among the nonwhite invaders who had arrived during 2015.