Marriage in Norway
Intervention in the workshop held in Oslo September 4th
by the British Embassy and IMDI
Thank you for this opportunity to speak upon such an
important topic – on behalf of the Norwegian Govt, and take part in the
dialogue. We say: No culture, religion or tradition can ever excuse violence in
close relations, like forced marriages (and other abuses and malpractises).
- Marriage must be entered into freely and willingly.
This principle is a human right and is laid down in Norwegian law. It is a
criminal offence to force a person to enter into marriage.
- The Government recognises that combating forced
marriage requires a broad approach, and many aspects are to be considered.
One major challenge is that forced marriages within some ethnic minorities
strongly involves the extended family in the country of origin, and that
families “marry”, not individuals. This makes the development of adequate
actions and long term policies difficult.
- The Ministry of Children and Equality, together with
the Ministry of Work and Inclusion, plays an important role in
combating forced marriages ,my ministry beeing responsible for
coordinating on behalf of the Cabinet. At present seven ministries and
their directorates, are involved. Not the least: IMDI. Coordination is a
- The first three-year Plan of Action against Forced
Marriage, containing 40 measures, was presented by the Government in 1998.
A revised plan with 30 measures was launched in 2002. A lot has been
achieved. Especially help to young people in crisis situations. However,
we see that these plans have not involved the public service sectors/all
relevant welfare services and municipalities, strongly enough. With one
exception; the Child Welfare Services has done a good job. Neither did the
plans take the family perspective sufficiently into consideration:
Families more often decide, not the individual; how to govern on “parenthood
in modern Norway” – in compliance with laws and norms? Then, how to
utilise our excellent family counselling services (free of charge) , as to
prevent malpractises and educate in parental governance that will enable
young people to "master" life in Norway ?
- Several legislative amendments in order to combat
forced marriage have been enforced over the years: In 2003, a new second
paragraph was added to section 222 of the Penal Code, a prohibition
against forcing a person to enter into marriage. The penalty is
imprisonment for up to 6 years, also for others onvolved. A punishable
offence is also to enter into marriage with a person below the age of 16.
A new provision in the Children Act states that parents or others may not
enter into a binding marriage agreement on behalf of a child. Several
changes are seen in the Immigration Regulations concerning the subsistence
requirement in connection with family reunification with a spouse or
amendments to the Marriage Act entered into force 1 June 2007. A marriage
outside Norway will not be valid in Norway if:
- One of the parties to the marriage is under the age of
18 when the marriage takes place
- The marriage is entered into without both parties being
physically present during the marriage ceremony (marriage by proxy or
- One of the parties is already married
- One of the parties must be a Norwegian national or
permanent resident of Norway when the marriage is entered into. The
purpose of these new amendments in the law is to prevent child marriage,
reduce the risk of forced marriage and prevent circumvention of the rules.
- A few years back we changed the Child Benefit Act,
bringing the monthly payment to an end after half a year's residence
abroad, not 1 year as earlier. Child Benefit is paid up to 18 years of age
to all children resident in Norway, paid to the person(s) living with the
child permanently. Parents also do have legal obligations to inform the
schools properly when children are going away for longer that the usual holidays,
and can be fined if not complying.
- Combating forced marriage cannot be done without
national coordination and cooperation, involving both governmental
agencies , public services on all levels and in relevant
municipalities and regions, and NGOs.
- In the autumn of 2004 a team of experts to combat
forced marriage was established. (They will present themselves here
today). The team has meant a great leap forward in our work, and
holds high competence.
- Several information measures and assistance services
like the Forced Marriage Hotline run by the Oslo Red Cross by public
funding. The Govt. believe that this hotline has been extremely
valuable.The organisation Self Help for Immigrants and Refugees (SEIF)
receives public funding to assist young people in individual cases who
believe they are in danger of being forced into marriage. The 50 Crisis
Centres (shelters) are alert, receiving 80 % of their running costs from
the State .
- The arrangement for providing emergency housing through
the Norwegian State Housing Bank has also made the situation easier
because it enables young people to move quickly to safe housing when the
- The Ministry of Children and Equality) has investigated
the occurrence of forced marriage in Norway. According to a survey
carried out in 2005 and 2006 around 500 young persons contacted public
services or the NGO’s I just mentioned. We have, however, reasons to
believe, that there are dark figures. It has been terribly difficult to
set a standard for how to “measure” what is a forced marriage or an
arranged (but not forced) situation .We aim at establishing a common
research-based standard for how to register incidents of forced marriages.
We are not there yet.
- Forced marriages raises issues with our relations with
countries of origin (and others). One goal is to deepen the relations and
dialogue with authorities in these countries (where forced marriage may
take place with Norwegian citizens involved) in order to achieve rapid and
effective handling of specific cases. And to get the youngsters home
safely! We have a spesific budget line in my departement for travel
expences home to Norway
- A bilateral agreement between Norway and Pakistan
entered into force on December 1st 2005.(The so-called Family
Protocol) Under this agreement, an advisory committee has been
established consisting of representatives of the authorities of Norway and
Pakistan.(Including myself). The first meeting was held in Pakistan
a year ago and a next meeting is planned for October 25th this year
in Oslo. We hope this dialogue will increase understanding of such matters
as forced marriages by both state parties.
- We cooperate within the framework of the Nordic Council
of Ministers. In 2006 we organised a Nordic seminar in Oslo about this
topic, and will repeat this annually, due to the similarities of the
problem. Best practises are shared. The Nordic cooperation also includes
protection. The UN is also a valuable place for learning and following
up the CEDAW and the Beijing Platform of Action, both through the CSW and
the 3rd Committee of the General Assembly. We of course observe the UN
Convention on Marriage (from 1964) and the Conventions on the Rights of
the Child (CRC) and on Civil and Political Rights (EU-countries and
Council of Europe are also valuable arenas for cooperation, but we could
use a more systematic approach on the European Arena)
- Many measures have been implemented over the years,
resulting amongst other things in a higher focus on forced marriage – it
is not taboo to speak upon anymore, civil society has better awareness of
the problem, it is acknowledged as offence to Human Rights, more people
know how to look for “signs” in order to prevent, and we have seen an
improvement in the competence of public administration, social services,
in schools and work life. Better assistance is given to more young boys
and girls. Media have played – and are playing – a significant role .
However , we have not suceeded well enough – as yet – to reach out into
the family life of our minority groups, with information and
dialogue on how to conduct parenthood in Norway in compliance
with laws and regulations, the rights of the child and the independence of
young people above 18 years of age, as well as women's rights (The Gender
- As long as a young person is regarded as an “asset” to
secure and maintain and develop the family’s honor, strength, wealth and
bonding with other families either here, in other countries in Europe or
in the country of origin – by force - we have not
succeeded. The work for inclusion and integration is now paramount
- On the 29th of June this year, the Government presented
a new National Action Plan, running from 2008 to 2011. It contains 40 new
and continued measures, involving eight different ministries .More than 70
million “fresh” NOK is allocated to this aim in the 2008 budget, along
with all the funding already in place, and of course through utilising our
public services better – “mainstreaming” work against F.M. throughout the
whole system, on all levels of administration and within the police force.
- New measures include the establishment of “minority
advisers” in secondary schools (age 16 – 19) with a high percentage of
students with a minority background (schools are crucial), of integration
attachés who will assist relevant Norwegian Permanent Delegations abroad,
and more resources to non-governmental organisations working against
forced marriages in a targeted way. Furthermore, the availability of accommodation/housing
for young people exposed to forced marriage will be improved
significantly. Measures will also be taken to ensure effective law
enforcement when it comes to prosecution of cases of forced marriage. (We
have only one sentence as yet)
- Even with a new and strong focus on utilising better
our public support system and all types of welfare services, we
still are dependent on a continuation of the good work of organisations
like SEIF, the Red Cross and not the least - the Crisis Centres which give
housing to young women being exposed to forced marriage. The contribution
of religious communities and ethnic minority organisations is important as
to changing attitudes, especially of the parental generation.
- The Action Plan is in the process of being translated
into English and other languages, and will be available on www.tvangsekteskap.no . We look
forward to further dialogue with countries like the UK . IMDI (The
Directorate of Integration and Inclusion) will take a lead in the day to
day work. As a coordinating ministry, we will measure along the way what
works and what doesn’t , and secure milestones for reporting on status and
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