Swedish court jails dad over forced marriage

Swedish court jails dad over forced marriage
The ruling was a first in Sweden. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT
A dad who married his 23-year-old daughter to a man in Afghanistan has become the first person in Sweden to be convicted under new forced marriage laws introduced two years ago.

The man was locked up for four years by Lund's district court in southern Sweden on Friday on a number of charges, including forced marriage, assault and unlawful detention. He was also told to pay 100,000 kronor ($11,709) in damages to his daughter. 

Another man, a friend of the father, was sentenced to jail for three years for unlawful detention and sexual molestation. However the court cleared the father's son, who was also a suspect, of all charges.

The daughter, who already had a boyfriend in Sweden, was lured to Afghanistan under false pretences last year. She had been told that she would meet several potential suitors there, and would have the chance to say no.

But once there, it emerged that a wedding was already in place, and after threats from her father she saw no opportunity to flee. 

“She was in what you would call a vulnerable position. She simply had no other way out than to do what they expected,” Lars Lindblad, who was a judge in the trial, told news agency TT.

The men were also accused of carrying out a series of crimes against the woman's 21-year-old boyfriend in Lund. The prosecutor argued that they abducted, assaulted and sexually harassed him in November 2015. One of the incidents was filmed and used as evidence in the case.

“Their relationship was not desirable. And the woman had not complied with what the family thinks, but continued the relationship after she was married off,” prosecutor Ulrika Ekvall said before the trial began.

According to the verdict, it was clear that the father had acted to defend his family’s reputation, and that the crime was therefore honour-related.

And the plaintiff representing the daughter and her boyfriend said the verdict could be of huge importance.

“This is an important judgement not only for my clients, but also for other young people who are victims of this kind of crime. That the perpetrators have been convicted now means that other victims can feel that society is on their side,” Fatima Brobeck Khan concluded.

The father is set to appeal the verdict. 

Sweden enacted a new law to combat forced marriage in July 2014. They were already illegal prior to this but were treated as part of a broader category of coercion crimes. The new law also criminalized a broader range of offences.

However, despite a number of reports being filed, this is the first case to result in an indictment. 

The Prosecution Authority's development centre in Gothenburg has examined the earlier preliminary investigations to see why they were dropped. 

“We’ve been tasked by the government with finding out why there haven’t been any previous indictments,” said prosecutor Kristina Ehrenborg-Staffas.

“The nature of the crime means that there are often difficulties with evidence. Often prosceutors only have the girl’s version to go on.There’s a lack of witnesses willing to talk and opinion is often divided on whether a marriage has taken place,” she said.