Facts on child marriages

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When Patriate Societies meet with Western Forms of Live – on the Challenges of Integration

After the German Federal Ministry of Interior has published dates on child marriage in Germany, an intense discussion started.

The numbers of the Ministry are the first ones to give an approximate overview on how many child marriages actually exist in Germany. The Bundestagsfraktion of the Greens in the German Bundestag had been asking for the numbers. According to Ministry of Interior, on July 31, 1475 underaged foreigners, and 1152 girls (76,27 %), were registered as married in the Ausländerzentralregister. The biggest group of them is from Syria (664). But many married children also come from Afghanistan (157), Iraq (100), Bulgaria (65), Poland (41), Rumania (33) and Greece (32). Broke down by age, 994 of the married children are 16 or 17 years old, 120 are 14 or 15 years old and 361 are younger than 14 years – which makes a percentage of 24,47%.

“Child marriage often depends on strictly patriate forms of life, organized in extended family structures. We do not only find them in certain Muslim milieus or with the Yazidis in Iraq, but also in Roma families at the Balkans”, says Mathias Rohe, director of the Erlangen Center for Islam and Law in Europe, in an interview with Qantara.de.  “[…] cultural, patriate influences in combination with according circumstances of living” would provoke child marriages in these regions. Poverty and education were among the most determining factors: “I do not know of any child marriage in educated milieus.”, says Rohe.

In Germany, child marriage is rejected by society and restricted, partly also forbidden, by law – namely when a child is younger than 14 years old.  So what is to do in Germany? “We need helping organisations and need to inform the peple on why we interfere with their businesses”, says Rohe, who calls for a clear judicial regulation. “We have to make clear that we do not want to bully the people but to compensate structural weak positions in society. Family regulations – which are part of the problem – are often seen as private and independent from the state.” However, Rohe also favors a certain flexibility:  “We do not have to raise the minimum marriage age to 18, as some people say. We could also make it 16 years – but only in specific cases and with observation of child welfare services.” A strict proscription was not always helping, because it would deny the women’s maintenance claim.

More articles on the topic can be found on heute.de, zeit.de , focus.de as well as in the Berliner Morgenpost.