Sweden's child marriages: illegal soon... for real?
School students pull off a spoof to show serious flaws in Sweden's forced child marriage laws.
A suitable and proper price has been settled between families for the hand of 14 year old Emma, and she's getting married this week to 15 year old William in a fantasy enactment of an arranged nuptial ceremony that takes place in Sergels Torg in the center of Stockholm.
"The event - called 'The childish wedding' - has been created by school children in Sweden to provoke, create identification of, and focus on how early marriage is causing a lack of education for girls in southern Sudan," says Johanna Swan Lind, manager of the program.
On the same day that wedding bells ring for William and Emma, an estimated 70,000 students from throughout Sweden will conduct an informational campaign and raise funds to support children's rights organizations who plan projects in southern Sudan. Currently in that nation, under 10% of young Sudanese females complete grammar school.
Their activities abroad aim at increasing the number of girls who continue their education. The efforts also seek to spread awareness of the consequences of child marriage, and in particular, the violence and harmful threats to health and society that may result. An umbrella activity of the event called "Operation One Day Working" is supported by a variety of businesses who pay volunteers for a single day's work, with the revenues of their labor going toward the Sudan project.
The wedding itself - which is, of course, merely a staged event and not a legal ceremony - is being followed by a blog site (see below) at which persons wishing to study the framework of the event can see the bridal couple's announcement, read the blogger's personal opinions regarding acquisition of extra small wedding dresses and also the few job opportunities that exist for any young person who has not completed elementary school and has no drivers' license.
"To contribute a day's work is a way for us students in Sweden to help students in other parts of the world where education is not a predetermined part of young lives," says Lind.
In related news last week, the Swedish government appointed former Chancellor of Justice Göran Lambertz to investigate possible legislative measures to instill tighter rules against forced marriages and child marriages.
At this point, the administration is in the dark about how common and widespread this practice is in Sweden, nor do the politicians have any idea what criminal provisions against forced marriage can be passed and enforced. In a previous study conducted recently by Sweden's Youth Board, five percent of young people aged 16 to 25 years who replied stated that they did not feel at liberty when it came to selecting their wedded spouse even though forced marriages have already been prohibited in the nation.
In nations where arranged marriage with children is allowed, many lawmakers refer to Islamic texts as a basis for their statutes. In 2002, Iran declared that it was legal for a nine year old girl to marry, but required her parents' permission. The Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan encourage families to arrange marriages for their daughters as early as the age of eight. Only females, and not young boys, seem to be addressed by marriage legislation in such nations.
The Islamic texts to which Muslim religious legislators refer frequently allude to the marriage of the Prophet Muhammad, then about 50 years old, to ‘A’isha (meaning "Allah be pleased with her"), the six year old daughter of Abu Bakr. However, this contention is not entirely correct. The founder of Islam "displayed restraint" in this matter, and among several verified historical writings is the statement in Bukhari, vol.5, book 58, ch.43, no.236, p.153 where it is disclosed that "...he married ‘Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consummated that marriage when she was nine years old."
Only six years ago, in 2004, Sweden changed its laws to make marriage of Swedish citizens under the age of 18 illegal, even abroad. However, widespread ignorance of the law, uncertainties regarding citizenship and waivers as well as prearranged foreign nuptial contracts have muddled the actual situation in Sweden so that it is now possible in practise to marry away children without their consent and to any person, whether in their age group or to an adult. The government's mandate to the study group does not call for final recommendations before May 21, 2012.
For more info, see www.detbarnsligabrollopet.nu