Every year, an unknown number of men and mostly female youths are forced into marriage through extreme control, violence and mental abuse. The exact number is unknown as not many can turn for help and some stay quite to conceal the “shame”. Others tries to escape from the marriage by receiving help and support from social services and police, and those who doesn’t get protection pay with their life for bringing shame and dishonor to the family name.
These are the life of people living in Norway. Young people with dreams and hopes for the future who are forced into a life they don’t want to enter. Families and parents decides what’s good and best for them because they want their child to have a good life but they do it in fact for themselves. For them, the reputation and what other people will think and speak about them is more important. They choose a spouse for their children without thinking that their daughter might be the victim of physical abuse and violence as long as the community speaks well about them.
These young people can be anyone in the community. It can be the young girl who had to quite high school or the smart and outgoing girl in the neighborhood who travels for the summer and doesn’t come back home again.
These youths have to sacrifice their dreams, interrupt their education, break up existing relationships and cut the network around them to follow their family’s desires by marrying and having sexual intercourse with a stranger or person they don’t love.
Women and men have the same right to freely choose a spouse in Norway and a marriage should be entered into voluntarily and with consent from both sides.
It is clear that it is prohibited to force someone into marriage in Norway and these forced marriages will be regarded as invalid and dissolved immediately. In the legal court system, The person who forces somebody into a marriage, or who contributes to do so, risks being fined or sentenced to prison for up to 6 years.
“In the case of forced marriage, anyone who through violence, loss of liberty, improper pressure or other unlawful conduct, or by threatening such conduct, forces another to enter into a marriage shall be punished. The punishment for forced marriage is 6 years. Aiding and abetting shall be punished in the same manner.” Section 222; subsection two, of the Norwegian Penal Code.
This does not only apply to forced marriages that are conducted in Norway but also abroad. If a person residing in Norway has threatened anybody to contract marriage while they are on holiday in the country of origin, this, too, is a criminal offence.
The Oslo Red Cross International Centre (ORKIS) runs a forced marriage telephone helpline that has helped many and others have contacted the police. When the family arrives to the airport to travel to their homeland to prepare the wedding, the police has stopped them and taken aside the “daughter”, telling the family that she cannot travel with the parents. Others have managed to escape and seek help from the embassy where the embassy personnel give them an emergency passport and escort them back to Norway.
So far, Red Cross has registered 253 forced marriages between the years 2008-2011. 52 of the cases were children, the youngest being only 13 years old. What’s even more concerning is that besides these numbers, there are a huge amount of unrecorded incidents.
The Red Cross, SEIF (Self-help for immigrants and foreigners) and IMDI (The Directorate of Integration and Diversity) register their own statistics on forced marriages. These organizations have been working with honor related extreme control, forced marriages and Female Genital Mutilation the last 15 years.