Government cracks down on forced marriages

The Swiss cabinet has put forward tougher measures to crack down on forced marriages.

This content was published on February 23, 2011 - 15:39 and agencies

In legislative proposals that will now be reviewed by parliament, the government has recommended automatic prosecution over forced marriages. Marriages with minors will also be illegal, whether they are contracted in or outside Switzerland.

Both types of marriage will be considered void, under the government plans.

In the future, cases where a person was threatened or made a victim of violence as a way of forcing them into marriage will be punishable by up to five years in prison for offenders. Currently the prison term can be up to three years.  

Under the plans, registry offices will have to ensure that both parties freely consent to the marriage. Today, failure to do results in the marriage being refused but in the future anyone not able to meet the criteria will be reported to the authorities.

Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga told a media conference on Wednesday that this would help victims, relieving them of the need to take action themselves. She added that those being forced into marriage would not be directly expelled from the country.

In parallel, the government plans to launch a study into the causes and extent of forced marriage to better identify measures and improve prevention.  

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