Swedish court sentences parents for trying to force girl, 13, into marriage

Two Syrian parents in central Sweden have been found guilty of trying to marry their 13-year-old daughter to a man in his twenties against her will.

Swedish court sentences parents for trying to force girl, 13, into marriage
Värmland District Court in Karlstad, Sweden. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Shortly after arriving in Sweden in the autumn of 2015, the parents wrote what was referred to as a “marriage contract” on behalf of their teenage daughter, linking her to the then 24-year-old man, said the court.

But the girl contacted the police, who helped her leave her family.

The three adults denied the criminal charges, claiming that the contract, despite its title “Marriage contract under Islamic law” and references to wedding gifts, was similar to an engagement and not legally binding.

The prosecutor however argued that the contact was similar enough to a “marriage-like relationship” to be considered a forced marriage under Swedish law, which generally does not permit under-18s to marry.

Värmland District Court – based on interrogations and the consultation of a social-anthropologist – found it was unclear whether or not the contract had indeed gone far enough to constitute a completed marriage agreement, and on Wednesday convicted the parents of attemped forced marriage.

The court said the penalty corresponded to ten months in jail. But because the prison sentence would be less than a year and the court did not suspect the parents would reoffend, it handed them a suspended sentence.

It said it cleared the 24-year-old man of the charges because the prosecutor had failed to prove that the man understood that the marriage contract had been set up against the 13-year-old's will.

The girl no longer lives with her parents, reports Swedish newswire TT.

The issue of underage brides has been hotly debated in Sweden in recent months, as the centre-left government tries to crack down on child marriages from abroad. One proposal by an inquiry suggests marriages should not be recognized if either party is under 18 at the point of arrival in the Nordic nation.

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