Swedish agency nixes booklet for immigrants on child marriage

A Swedish government agency has withdrawn a booklet for immigrants who are married to children after it was blasted by Swedish lawmakers for its allegedly soft approach to child marriage.

The booklet, “Information for those who are married to a child” was retracted Thursday by Sweden’s National Board of Health and Welfare, which said the material was developed within the framework of a government project to provide information to those in such marriages about current laws and practices in Sweden -- including the ban on such marriages, child rights and social services.

The Local reports that the brochure has fired up controversy particularly over the soft language used when it said: "Since children under the age of 15 have an absolute right to protection from sexual acts it is improper for you to live together if the child is under 15.”

“The material has raised strong reactions and many views. We withdraw the material and will look over it,” a statement from the agency said.

Sweden has been one of a number of European countries that has welcomed in a large number of refugees from some Middle Eastern and African countries where child marriage is more common.

But critics say that the booklet, while perhaps well intentioned, took an approach to child marriage that was too soft for a modern liberal country.

Sweden’s Minister for Children, Lena Hallengren, slammed the document.

“There must never be any doubts about the laws and values that apply in Sweden. It is not allowed to enter into child marriage,” she tweeted. “This should not be compromised and the information must be crystal clear.”

“It is justified to provide information, but what tone and signals you send is at least as important,” she told national broadcaster SVT.

"Facepalm. Unacceptably indulgent,” Liberal Party leader Jan Björklund said. “The brochure has to be withdrawn without delay. Child marriage should be completely forbidden.”

“Sweden does not allow anyone under the age of 18 to be married in this country. However, according to current legislation, the main rule is that a marriage valid under the law of the country in which it is concluded is to be recognized civil law in Sweden,” Pär Ödman, Chief Legal Officer of the National Board of Health said in the statement from the board. “New legislation is currently being prepared by the government.”

Proposals are being considered that such marriages would not be recognized if one of the spouses was under 18 when they arrived in Sweden is proposed to go into effect in 2019, the board said.