Islamic forced marriages in Denmark
Statistics might support Anders Fogh Rasmussen's claim that the '24-year' law, which requires Danish residents and their foreign partner to both be at least 24 years old to marry, has been successful in preventing forced marriages.
Critics, however, suggest that the prime minister look at other statistics - namely that non-ethnic Danes, primarily Muslims, simply find their spouses here and often under the same, restrictive conditions.
'Typically the young people meet each other at schools and later wish to marry. There is nothing in Islamic law to impede such a union, but it happens anyway because young people's families aren't happy with the choice,' imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen told daily newspaper Politiken.
Ministry statistics show that the number of non-ethnic Danes marrying foreigners dropped from 62.7 percent in 2001 to 37.9 percent in 2005. However, the number of those who married other non-ethnic Danes rose from 17.3 percent to 29.1 percent over the same period.
Pedersen and others close to Islamic culture in Denmark are therefore sceptical over whether the 24-year law has had any effect whatsoever in preventing forced marriages.
Imran Hussain, spokesperson for the immigrant organisation The Network, said that there are many ways Muslim families get around the restrictions of the law.
'Even though the number of immigrants who get their spouses from their homelands has fallen, there are many who have simply moved to Sweden and live there with a husband or wife from their native country,' he said.
The numbers say nothing about whether any of the marriages actually were forced. Pedersen said it is possible that a preference for someone with a similar background could be behind the numbers.
'It's natural - for Muslims or anyone else - to be somewhat racist, and believe you're your own background is the best.'
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