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Home NATIONALForced marriage prevails as laws fall short
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Thu, 03 Jul, 2014 12:50:24 AM
FTimes-STT Report, July 3
 
File Photo Lehtikuva.
Incidents of forced marriage are still widespread in the country, according to a report released by Monika.
 
Monika – the Multicultural Women’s Association in Finland – is an umbrella organisation that provides support to women of different ethnic minorities. The organisation is contacted about 20 times a year on cases of forced marriage.
 
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Natalie Gerbert, the head of Monika Resource Centre.
 
Gerbert stresses that forced marriage should be criminalised. 
 
Natalie Gerbert, the head of the Monika Resource Centre. Photo Lehtikuva.
Forced marriage, according to Gerbert, should be applied to the laws against human trafficking or the laws against coercion.
 
At the moment, there is no law that forbids forced marriage, which, according to Gerbert, limits the authorities in discharging help to the victims.
 
Gerbert points out that without the force of the law the authorities are limited not only in helping the victims but also in the modality of help and identification of the problem.
 
It is understood that no single case of forced marriage has proceeded to criminal investigation so far.
 
According to Gerbert, it is not known how widespread the phenomenon is, but child welfare services stumble upon cases in secondary schools on a regular basis.
 
Justice Minister Anna-Maja Henriksson does not rule out the possibility of criminalising forced marriages.
 
The Justice Minister, Anna-Maja Henriksson. Photo Lehtikuva.
The minister however suggests that effects of forced-marriage criminalisation should be carefully assessed and the spread of such incidents should be investigated.
 
According to the minister, mere criminalisation is not enough to solve the problem and may even lead to complications, if it reduces the willingness of the victims to reach for help.
 
One can help in case of underage forced marriages by contacting the child welfare authorities.
 
With adults much depends on where they chose to seek help from. One can be offered to stay at a women’s shelter.
 
Gerbert explains that request for assistance often means breaking off relations with their family. Therefore, the decision is a tough one.
 
 
 
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