Dutch stop recognising child marriages abroad

21st October 2015, Comments 0 comments

Dutch authorities Wednesday moved to close a loophole under which minors married abroad were allowed to join their spouses in the Netherlands, which has registered record numbers of asylum seekers.

Amid growing concerns over the number of child brides resulting from the wars in Syria and Iraq, the Dutch government Wednesday gave notice its laws would be changed from December 5.

"The law aimed at combatting forced marriages provides that a marriage carried out abroad between those under 18 will no longer be recognised in the Netherlands except if both spouses have since reached 18," says the law published in the official government journal.

Under the previous legislation, the minimum age was 15. The marriages of minors under 15 were not recognised as "they were incompatible with public order in the Netherlands."

According to radio RTV-Noord last month, which quoted an immigration report dating from March, around 20 minors married in Syria were rejoining their adult spouses who had won asylum in the Netherlands.

The previous legislation was also at odds with Dutch law, which only allows those 18 and above to wed, except in special circumstances such as pregnancy.

"A 12-year-old girl with a 40-year-old man, that's not marriage that's abuse," Dutch MP Attje Kuiken told public television NOS in September when the law was being discussed in parliament.

Although child brides are more common in some countries, international agencies such as Save the Children and UNICEF last year raised the alarm over a spike in the number of minors being married to older spouses.

Save the Children said in a report that "early and forced marriage among Syrian refugee girls in Jordan has doubled since the onset of the war" due to both poverty and as families seek to protect their girls from sexual violence in camps.

The debate in the Netherlands came to the fore as a 14-year-old heavily pregnant girl disappeared in late August from a centre for asylum seekers in northeast Holland.

Police believe she and her 24-year-old husband slipped across the nearby border into Germany, even though she had been due to give birth any day.

The Netherlands said earlier Wednesday it had registered a record number of asylum seekers in September -- some 8,400 -- as the flow of migrants to Europe, mainly Syrians fleeing war, continues to surge.

© 2015 AFP

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