Swedish agency backtracks following child marriage brochure storm

Swedish agency backtracks following child marriage brochure storm
The brochure in question. Photo: Socialstyrelsen
Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) has withdrawn an information brochure targeted towards people moving to the country while married to children after it provoked widespread outrage.

The brochure “Information for those married to a child” starts by explaining that marrying someone under the age of 18 is not allowed in Sweden, outlining the reasons why, and noting that a child who comes to the country married will be treated as a lone child without their parent or guardian under Swedish law and given the corresponding social services care.

A separate section details that having sex with someone under the age of 15 is a crime, regardless of whether a marriage is in place or not.

It is the brochure’s language in particular that has provoked criticism. In a section with advice for anyone who is married to a child, it states:

“Since children under the age of 15 have an absolute right to protection from sexual acts it is improper for you to live together if the child is under 15”.

The leader of the Moderates in the Riksdag was not impressed with the content.

“The biggest failing is that the word ‘prison’ isn’t present, but rather it gives a bit of advice and tips on how to respond if you have a relationship our marriage laws forbid,” Tobias Billström told news agency TT.

“Facepalm. Unacceptably flat. The brochure has to be withdrawn without delay. Child marriage should be completely forbidden,” Liberal leader Jan Björklund wrote on Twitter.

And Sweden's Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality also expressed her discontent.

“There should never be any doubt over which laws and values apply in Sweden. It is not permitted to enter into child marriage. That cannot be compromised and that, and the information on it must be crystal clear,” Lena Hallengren said.

On Thursday afternoon Socialstyrelsen removed the brochure from their website, explaining that they did so because it had provoked strong reactions.

“The material has provoked strong reactions and many comments. We have withdrawn the material and will revise it,” Petra Rinman, head of Socialstyrelsen’s knowledge centre for lone refugee children said in a statement.

The government agency added that the material is part of a government commissioned request for them to spread information to children believed to be married, as well as partners, parents and other relations over the laws and practice in Sweden.

“Sweden does not permit those who are under 18 to enter into marriage in the country. According to current legislation however the general rule is that marriage which is legal according to the law of the country in which it was carried out should be recognized in Sweden. New legislation is currently being prepared by the government,” Socialstyrelsen’s legal head Pär Ödman stated.

In December a report commissioned by the Swedish government proposed ways to make it more difficult for child marriages from abroad to be recognized in Sweden, including that the country would not recognize a marriage if one of the parties is under 18 at the point of arrival in the Nordic nation.

READ ALSO: Sweden to crack down on child marriages