By Raheem Kassam
German authorities are reportedly "sounding the alarm" over a sharp rise in child marriages after noting that more and more girls are disappearing from school. Justice Minister Heiko Maas has announced "drastic" new measures to tackle the problem.
The girls are usually married to older men, and the trend is being linked to the new wave of migrants who entered the country over the past 18 months. The state has logged over 1,000 child marriages, but N24.de reports that the number of unreported cases may dwarf this number.
In the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Mr. Maas said he would be setting up a new working group which will begin its work on September 5th.
SPD parliamentary leader Thomas Oppermann said the protection of children is an absolute priority which must also apply to minors from a migrant background.
"Forced marriages are, in Germany, punishable," he said. "...that's how it should be."
Germany accepts the validity of child marriages that are legal in their countries of origin.
The marriages, the report notes, are often arranged. Oppermann notes that child marriages often result in girls becoming pregnant at a young age and subsequently leaving school. "[Y]oung refugees must be informed of their rights in Germany," he said.
And officials are also contemplating a change in law to refuse to accept an underage marriage that took place in a different country before the migrants arrived.
In June a German judge ruled that the marriage of a 14-year-old Syrian girl to her 20-year-old cousin was valid, despite German law. The Oberlandesgericht Bamberg (Higher Regional Court in Bamberg, Bavaria) decided the marriage must be recognised as the wedding has already taken place as was recognised as legal in their native Syria, conducted in accordance with Sunni marriage rites.
In June, a German judge validated the marriage of a 14-year-old Syrian girl to her 20-year-old cousin.
The consequences currently being touted include prison terms of up to five years, even for marriages which are conducted privately in religious, cultural, or social ceremonies.
N24 notes that even UNICEF is concerned about the child marriages.
CEO Christian Schneider said. "For the welfare of refugee children who live in Germany, the state has a particular responsibility to protect – for them the same principles apply as for German children".
In February, Breitbart London reported that dozens of child brides had arrived in Norway, with the youngest being just 11-years of age. The phenomenon has also caused concern in the Netherlands, prompted by the disappearance of the nine-month pregnant 14-year-old girl Fatema Alkasem and her 24-year-old husband.
Last month the German region of North Rhine-Westphalia, which has seen 188 marriages of migrants who are underage, saw calls grow for the government to intervene and stop the practice.
Meanwhile, the increasingly authoritarian and Islamist Turkey is flirting with the idea of allowing 12-year-olds to consent to sex.