Concern in Sweden That Child and Forced Marriages Will Rise Over Summer Holidays

[UNVERIFIED CONTENT] Portrait of the intense gaze of an Arab girl wearing a black veil o niqab, Kahel, Haraz Mountains, Yemen
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As children are out of school for the summer holidays, concerns have grown over the possibility of children being sent abroad and placed into forced marriages as tens of thousands of children in Sweden risk being married against their will.

A survey conducted in 2009 revealed that as many as 70,000 children and young people were at risk of forced marriages in Sweden, a figure that is believed to be even higher today, though exact numbers are hard to gauge as forced marriages are illegal in Sweden and are often performed overseas.

In the municipality of Botkyrka in Stockholm, around one in four girls in school year nine, aged between 15 and 16, say they are not allowed to choose who they want to marry, while one in three say that they live with “virginity requirements” for marriage, SVT reports.

Last year, SVT reported an increase in young women and girls who were being taken from Sweden overseas to be married, stating that girls as young as 15 were being taken to countries such as Iraq to be married and that some never return to Sweden.

Sabina Landstedt, a support coordinator at the honour culture organisation GAPF (Never forget Pela and Fadime), told the broadcaster that as the pandemic border restrictions waned, they saw an increase in girls being taken overseas for forced marriages and some have contacted the group.

“These girls who have contacted us are between 15 and 22 years old. They have been abducted because they do not follow the family’s standards for how to behave and in their home countries they are subjected to child or forced marriages,” Landstedt said.

While there is a law in Sweden from 2020 that allows authorities to enact a travel ban on any suspected cases of female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage and child marriages taking place overseas, a report from earlier this month claimed the law has only been used once in the city of Uppsala.

Last year it was also reported that despite laws against child marriage being in place for a year and carrying a sentence of up to four years in prison, no one had been convicted under the law, despite at least 58 reports to police of child marriage activity.

The experience in Sweden mirrors that of other European nations with large multicultural populations. In Britain, the summer holidays are also recognised as a potentially dangerous time for young girls from certain communities with police warning children to look out for signs they may be taken abroad for honour-based abuse including forced marriage and genital mutilation.

British children were told in one police awareness campaign to put a metal spoon in their underwear if they feared they were being taken abroad for forced marriage, as the spoon would trigger airport metal detectors and give them a chance to speak to police officers.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


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