Denmark: Women still forced into marriageWomen still forced into marriage
The hottest potato in Denmark's immigration debate, the so-called 24-year-rule is in the spotlight again after immigrant organisations and consultants reported that it had failed to help young immigrant women to avoid forced marriages. The rule forbids Danish residents to bring their foreign spouses into the country unless both partners have reached a minimum age of 24. The Liberal-Conservative coalition government has said its main purpose is to prevent young people with immigrant backgrounds from being pressed into marriages with people from their families' homelands. Immigrant organs said that on the contrary, the rule was making life even more difficult for immigrant youths with families bent on making a good match for them in the old country. 'Families that practice forced marriages are increasingly using physical and psychological violence to force a spouse upon their marriages. We experience more and more that parents threaten to kill their children if they don't say yes,' said Leif Randeris, leader of the Immigrants' Counselling Services in Copenhagen and Århus. Randeris said every week he usually helped two girls with foreign backgrounds to get a secret address, because they felt that their lives were in danger after they rejected an arranged marriage. He said the 24-year-rule was causing parents to force their daughters to move to their country of origin, because the regulations prevented them from getting their husbands to Denmark. 'I know a number of girls who are now being kept as domestic slaves with their husbands in the village their parents originally came from,' he said.
Parties across the parliamentary spectrum demanded that Liberal Minister of Refugee, Immigration, and Integration Affairs Rikke Hvilshøj launch an investigation of whether the 24-year-rule was working as planned. 'There is nothing to document that the 24-year-rule works,' said Elsebeth Gerner Nielsen, Social Liberal MP and spokesman on immigration affairs. 'The minister must start an investigation on how the rule works, or if it works at all.' The Social Democrats and the Danish People's Party, which have supported the 24-year-rule up until now, said they agreed that an investigation was needed. 'If immigrant consultants say we have a problem, we have to listen to them and investigate if they're right,' said Jesper Langballe, the Danish People's Party's MP and spokesman on immigration affairs. 'I find it hard to believe that there are girls being isolated in their parents' homelands, but it's something we have to check.' Hvilshøj told Politiken that the government had never claimed that the rule would put an end to all forced marriages, and said there were plenty of evidence that the rule was having the effect intended.