Swedish lawmakers are set to vote on a proposed crackdown on child marriage next week — a move echoing measures taken by a host of countries in the wake of Europe’s refugee crisis.
Though a current ban on marriages for people under 18 would be extended, if the bill is approved, to invalidate such unions of foreigners carried out abroad. So Couples who wish to stay together will have to wait until 18 to remarry.
This potential law and others are widely seen as a reflection of the challenges involved in integrating the more than one million migrants who have arrived in Europe since 2015.
“The need to let children be children no matter if they are from Sweden or another country,” said My Hellberg, from TRIS, or the Young Women’s Rights Society, which runs shelters and campaigns against domestic abuse perpetrated in the name of “honor” for bringing shame on families.
Child marriage disproportionately affects girls, and increases their chances of dropping out of education, living in poverty and becoming victims of domestic violence.
The number of underage married asylum-seekers and refugees across Europe is not known, however, and rights groups estimate that many unions go unrecorded.
“I don’t think it makes you an apologist for child marriage in any way to say that these situations are complicated.”
Most European countries still allow marriage under the age of 18 in certain circumstances, such as with parental consent or the approval of a judicial or governmental authority. In U.S. the situation is similar, with Delaware this year becoming the first state to ban marriage for anyone under 18 without exception.
But in the last three years, the Netherlands, Denmark and Norway have either outlawed child marriage or extended their bans to include the marriages of young foreign nationals wed abroad. A British lawmaker has also introduced a bill to ban unions under the age of 18 in England and Wales.
Swedish lawmakers are due to vote on the proposal on Wednesday.
In 2016, Sweden’s Migration Agency said it had identified 132 cases of children who said they were married on asylum applications, but acknowledged there were probably more. In the same year, more than 1,400 underage foreign children were listed as married in Germany, according to the country’s Central Register of Foreign Nationals.
Though lots of European countries didn’t see these laws as a problem.