According to the National Suppression of Honor Prevention of Childhood and Forced Marriage, a hotline set up for victims, the number of calls from those wanting to get out of forced or child marriages has steadily increased in Sweden.
This year, however, the number of calls has dramatically increased with the hotline operators claiming to have received 132 calls relating to child and forced marriages, which is set to pass last year’s total of 139.
Despite being able to identify 101 potential victims of forced or child marriage, both of which are illegal in Sweden, only six cases have actually seen court convictions.
Although the absolute figures are relatively small, especially compared to other Western nations with more developed forced marriage and child abuse problems, they are significant in formerly low-crime, low-population Sweden. With just 9.9 million residents — a figure that has lately seen a historic rise — the whole nation is the population equivalent to the U.S. state of Michigan.
Negin Amirekhtiar, an expert at the National Competence Team against Honour-Related Violence and Repression acknowledged the rise in the number of calls but was hesitant to say it meant there were more victims than in previous years saying victims may have more confidence in reporting due to awareness raised about the issue.
Anti-honour violence organisation Forget Never Pela and Fadime (GAPF) say they have had 19 girls come to them this year and that the group has managed to get three of the girls out of their situation so far.
Sabina Landstedt, who works with GAPF, noted the difficulty of many cases as girls were often sent overseas to relatives during the summer holidays.
“They go there with the family and then it’s almost always that the family comes back home, but without the girls,” she said.
Child marriage in Sweden has become a real issue following the 2015 migrant crisis with most child marriages occurring in families with migrant backgrounds or even with newly arrived asylum seekers.
The Swedish government even briefly released a pamphlet for new migrants on the topic of child marriage, but quickly withdrew it due to backlash from the public.
In March, the Swedish parliament voted to totally ban the recognition of any child marriages from overseas, despite some objections from parties within the governing coalition who wanted to propose special exemptions.