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Forced Marriage Provides Tough Problem for Swedish Judges

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The ill-conceived immigration policy has left Sweden struggling with problems, which European societies have been unfamiliar with for decades. Recently, Sweden launched its first ever trial on forced marriage, with a young Afghan-born woman testifying against her father.

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The grotesquely Shakespearian love story involving a family feud and bloodshed unfolded between two Swedish nationals, whose families come from Afghanistan, and serves as a bitter reminder of how alien other people's customs and habits may prove.

A wedding with the 23-year old woman's cousin was arranged during last year's family trip to Afghanistan to visit relatives. According to the woman's family, she agreed to marry entirely voluntarily. As her would-be husband applied for a residence permit, however, she complained to Sweden's Migration Board, claiming to be stuck in a forced marriage.

As she revealed to her family she already had a boyfriend, her father allegedly threatened to "cut her up into pieces" for disgracing the family, the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan reported. Subsequently, her lover received a harsh beating and was seriously abused by her father and other male family members.

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According to the prosecution, the father acted in order to restore the family honor, as the daughter obviously had a boyfriend without parental permission. In many Mid-Eastern countries, it is common for parents to marry off their daughters, regardless of their social status. A deal with the prospected bridegroom's family is often seen as a source of oncome. Marrying cousins to each other is common, and is considered an appropriate way to keep the property within the family, the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet pointed out.

Besides, the bride must be a virgin before marriage to ensure that no "illegitimate" children inherit property. A family's "honor" is therefore largely based on the notion of the woman's "purity." Suspicions of promiscuity may cast a shadow on the whole family and may result in violence. This concept of honor still plays a morbid role for many Afghans who have become Swedish citizens. By the Afghan diaspora's own admissions, suspicions may be raised by photos on social media and other things that can lead to gossip among relatives.

The Swedish law on forced marriages, which may punish the perpetrator with up to four years in prison, has only existed in the penal code for two years and has never been enforced before. Despite a large number of suspected cases, no charges have been filed until now, the simple reason being that they may end up with daughters testifying against their own families.

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At present, 16 preliminary investigations on other cases of forced marriage are pending in Sweden. According to advocate Elisabeth Fritz, the Swedish legal system is still clueless about "honor crimes." She believes such crimes should always result in a more severe punishment, as opposed to crimes without an honor motive, as well as result in an expulsion from the country when possible.

"With the current flow of refugees to Sweden, my assessment is that we can see an increase in such crimes, as they persist throughout our whole society and even in our refugee camps," Fritz told Svenska Dagbladet.

Whereas Sweden is yet to debut a guilty verdict for forced marriage, Germany has had a law against forced marriage since 2011, after a review of cases from 2008 showed that 3,400 women and girls across the country sought help against forced marriage. Eight out of ten proved to hail from Muslim families. Nearly all came from migrant families, with only a small portion of the women born in Germany.

Other countries in Europe (and even the United States) also passed laws against this type of crime in recent years, which alas proved have nearly impossible to apply.

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