Forced marriage in berlin: the bravest go to the police

A survey shows: Hundreds of girls and women continue to be forcibly married. The self-confidence of those affected is growing.

Demeo against homophobia, violence and forced marriage in Berlin, 2015 Photo: dpa

Every year in Berlin, hundreds of young people, mostly girls, are at risk of forced marriage. That’s according to a 2017 survey by the Berlin Working Group Against Forced Marriage, published this week by Petra Koch-Knobel, the equal opportunities commissioner for the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district.

According to the report, 570 cases of attempted or actual forced marriage became known last year. 83 percent of those affected had a Muslim background, while others were of Christian, Jewish or Yiddish faith. "The survey explicitly does not claim to provide quantitatively representative results," Koch-Knobel told the taz on Friday. Because of the relatively simple and anonymous form of the questionnaire, multiple counts cannot be ruled out. Besides the dark number might lie around a multiple higher.

For the inquiry Koch Knoebel asked 1,164 citizens of Berlin mechanisms from the anti-violence range, in addition youth welfare offices, police, migration, women, equalization and integration representatives as well as all schools and refugee accommodations. Of these, 420 institutions responded to the survey questionnaire.

The survey is the second of its kind after 2013, when 460 cases of forced marriage were listed; however, the number of facilities surveyed was 40 percent lower. So there can be no question of a striking increase in the number of cases.

Many refugee girls from Syria

However, the group of people affected has changed. According to Koch-Knobel, in the 2013 survey there were still more Turkish victims (32 percent) than Arab victims (22). Four years later, 20 percent of those affected had a Turkish background and 48 percent had an Arab background, including "predominantly Syrian girls and women," according to Koch-Knobel. The Equal Opportunities Officer and her fellow members of the working group therefore suspect that many refugees are affected by the problem. "Fortunately, we also learn about it because many anti-violence projects go directly to the refugee homes."

Forced marriages still exist, he said, even in families who are already the third generation to live here. These probably hide behind the figure of 25 percent of affected persons with German citizenship. "This is a general problem of patriarchal family structures," Koch-Knobel said.

Petra Koch-Knobel, Equal Opportunities Officer

"This is a general problem of patriarchal family structures."

93 percent of those affected are female. Among the 7 percent boys, it is striking that half of them are homosexual and should probably marry a girl for that reason. Most of those affected of both sexes were between years old. Younger than percent of the female and 3 percent of the male affected.

Education in schools is slow

In more than half of the cases that became known, the forced marriage had not yet taken place. The working group sees the fact that many of those affected seek counseling beforehand as a positive sign that more and more young people are aware of their rights. Awareness has also grown in the facilities, which makes early intervention possible.

The working group tries to sensitize schools in particular to the issue, as Koch-Knobel explains – with training courses for teachers, project days for students and the like. "Unfortunately, however, this is little requested by the schools," she said. In addition, every year before the summer vacations, they advise schools to watch out for indications that young people might not come back. If the young people had been taken abroad, there were only "in individual cases" still possibilities for help, she said. For 2017, 71 abductions abroad were identified.

There has been legal recourse since 2011 with Section 237 of the Criminal Code, which already criminalizes the attempt at forced marriage and also the taking out of the country for this purpose. "That’s a bit of a toothless tiger, though, because we can only do something if the children are willing to report their parents," Koch-Knobel said. The vast majority didn’t do that. After all: 13 boys and girls joined the police in 2017.

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