Expatica news

Harsh penalties for forced marriage

8 March 2007

BRUSSELS – Justice Minister Laurette Onkelinx (PS) wants to clamp down on forced marriages. Parliament will vote today on proposed legislation that could impose harsh penalties on such arrangements.

A study by the Vrije Universteit Brussels shows that forced marriages continue to take place in Belgium. A survey of Turkish and Moroccan women in Flanders and Brussels indicate that about one in four women over 40 was forced into marriage. The phenomenon still exists among younger women as well.

Parliament will vote today, on international women’s day, on a draft bill from the justice minister aimed at putting an end to this. It looks as if the bill should be approved by a large majority.

Anyone who forces another into marriage – by violence or other threat – risks a serious penalty in future. The bill imposes a prison sentence of up to two years or a fine of EUR 500 to 2,500. An attempt to force someone into marriage will also be a crime.

The court can also decide on its own to declare a marriage null and void if it has been forced. Until now that was only possible if one of the two partners started an annulment procedure. “But,” Onkelinx says, “victims often do not have the courage to take that kind of legal steps because they are under a great deal of pressure.”

Onkelinx says this bill will make Belgium the second country in the world to take such drastic action against forced marriages. She says current legislation does not offer enough protection for people in this situation.

[Copyright Expatica News 2007]

Subject: Belgian news