Child marriages are not regarded as forced marriages in Switzerland

Every week, up to eleven people report to the Center for Forced Marriage. One in three is still a minor. “There are more than ever,” says Anu Sivaganesan, 32, chairman of the Department of Forced Marriage. In 2018, the department looked after 119 cases of minority marriages. Most of those affected are Kurds from Iraq and Syria or they come from Turkey, Afghanistan or Somalia.”The main reason for this is the cult of the virginity of women,” said the chairman of the Center of Forced Marriage.In Switzerland, families fear that their daughters may have sex before marriage. Because here you do not have to live separately according to the sex. “In order to protect the family’s honor, the daughter is then forced to marry or engage abroad as a minor,” said the chairman.Two young women who were married as girls and live in Switzerland are Samira (19 y.o) and Nesrin (17 y.o). So that they can not be identified, their names and countries of origin have been changed. These are their stories.


Samira is Swiss and born here, her parents are from Syria. She was 15 when she was married by telephone to her husband in Syria. A year later, following pressure from her family, the ritual marriage abroad followed.Last year, Samira became 18 years old.When the child reaches the age of majority, the child marriage became legally binding in Switzerland. When the young woman realized this, she tried to commit suicide: “I swallowed my father’s tablets. But I survived.With the recognised marriage, her husband, who still lives in Syria, has received the right to family reunification. He also wants to use this entitlement: He will enter Switzerland in the coming days. A disaster in the eyes of Samira: “Why does Switzerland recognise my child marriage? I don’t want to be married! The 19-year-old is now desperately trying to prevent her husband from entering the country with the help of the Forced Marriage Unit. 
However, the chances are limited: If Samira does not succeed in discouraging her husband from his plans, she has no choice but to quit her job. 
Without financial security, he would lose his right to family reunification. Unfortunately, there is no possibility of obtaining an entry ban for her husband, whom she did not marry of her own free will.
But what if the entry cannot be prevented and Samira at least wants to prevent living together? Samira would still have the option of going underground and continuing to live under a new identity with the help of the Department of Forced Marriage. But that would also be a break with the whole family.


Nesrin was 14 years old when she was married in Iraq. At the age of 16 she came to Switzerland and received asylum. The asylum authorities learned of the child marriage and referred the case to the court. The court was to decide whether the continuation of the marriage corresponded to Nesrin’s ” overwhelming interests “. Specifically, if Nesrin were pregnant or if she confirmed her love for her
husband to the Swiss authorities and the family, the marriage is likely to persist.
There is no age limit by law. Both are not applicable to Nesrin. Nevertheless, her child marriage was not annulled. The reason: To date, the court had no time to handle their case. The result: The marriage becomes final in one month. Because then Nesrin will be 18 years old. Even a “normal” divorce would not provide a quick solution. Because her spouse would challenge this and thus delay the divorce by at least two years.
How can it be that Switzerland recognizes marriages without first examining them? Child marriage is not regarded as forced marriage in Switzerland and is therefore not prohibited. But the review of such cases by means of balance of interests is in the criticism. Anu Sivaganesan: “The balancing of interests usually lasts until the person concerned comes of age and the marriage is automatically valid in Switzerland as well.” The Greens and the SVP now want to act. “Basically, it has to be assumed that marriages of under 16 years old are a forced marriage,” says SVP National Councilor Therese Schlapfer. A similar motion was submitted at the end of September. The Department of Forced Marriage, Center of Competence of the Federal Government, sees the same. The department proposes not to recognize marriages abroad before the age of 18 in Switzerland. ––weil-Behoerde-nichts-tut-17726812

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