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“I Don't Take This Man to Be My Lawfully Wedded Husband”: Considering the Criminal Offense of “Forced Marriage” and Its Potential Impact on the Lives of Girls and Young Women with Migrant Backgrounds in Germany

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 March 2019

Abstract

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In Germany, the practice of forcing a person to marry against his or her own free will was not explicitly penalized and did not attract much political attention until the beginning of the new millennium. Since the mid-2000s, however, the German legislature has enacted a number of laws concerning forced marriage, possibly due to increased public and media interest in honor-related gender violence in immigrant communities. In 2011, the German Criminal Code (StGB) was amended to include “Forced Marriage,” thus making forcing someone to marry an offense in its own right. In light of similar recent developments criminalizing forced marriages in other European jurisdictions—such as England and Wales—this article aims to critically assess the German legislation and its potential impact on victims and offenders. First, this article considers the German criminal legislation in detail. Second, it contemplates the underlying question of whether the introduction of criminal law as a repressive measure effectively addresses the issue of forced marriage. Third, this article contemplates non-legislative measures that could contribute to affording more holistic protection. Finally, it concludes that improving the situation for victims of forced marriage in practice requires more than adopting criminal law on the matter.

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Copyright © 2015 by German Law Journal GbR 

References

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10 Schubert, & Moebius, , supra note 1, at 33. While boys and young men can also be affected by such practices, anecdotal evidence suggests that the risk of girls and women becoming victims is much greater. See Göbel-Zimmermann & Born, supra note 8, at 54. According to a study by the Federal Ministry for Family, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, girls and young women are affected in ninety-three percent of all cases. See Thomas Mirbach, Torsten Schaak & Katrin Triebl, Zwangsverheiratung, IN Deutschland—Anzahl und Analyse von Beratungsfällen-Kurzfassung 22 (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend eds., 2011).Google Scholar

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13 For an overview of older research studies on forced marriage in different German states, see Wieck-Noodt, supra note 3, at 16.Google Scholar

14 Göbel-Zimmermann & Born, , supra note 8, at 54. For analysis on newspaper coverage of so-called honor killings in Germany, see generally Anna Korteweg & Gökçe Yurdakul, Islam, Gender, and Immigrant Integration: Boundary Drawing in Discourses on Honour Killing in the Netherlands and Germany, 32 Ethnic & Racial Stud. 218 (2009).Google Scholar

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18 On the legislative history, see Eisele, supra note 8, at para. 1.Google Scholar

19 See Eichenhofer, Johannes, Das Gesetz zur Bekämpfung der Zwangsheirat [The Law to Fight Forced Marriage], Neue Zeitschrift für Verwaltungsrecht 792, 794 (2011).Google Scholar

20 Clark, Brigitte & Richards, Claudina, The Prevention of Forced Marriages—A Comparative Approach, 57 Int‘l & Comp. L. Q. 501, 501 (2008). See, e.g., Sundari Anitha & Aisha Gill, Coercion, Consent and the Forced Marriage Debate in the UK, 17 Feminist Legal Stud. 165 (2009) (analyzing forced marriages in the UK); see also Esther Efemini, Til Death Do Us Part: Forced Marriages in the UK, 79 Crim. Just. Matters 14 (2010). See, e.g., Alicia Lobeiras, The Right to Say “I Don't”: Forced Marriage as Persecution in the United Kingdom, Spain, and France, 52 Colum. J. Transnat‘l L. 896 (2014) (analyzing forced marriages in France in regards to asylum laws).Google Scholar

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22 Forced Marriage Protection Orders are injunction orders prohibiting addressees to perform acts related to forcing someone into marriage. See id. at 244. For a discussion on whether forced marriage should be treated as a civil rather than a criminal matter and the UK government's past policy, see Kaye Quek, A Civil Rather than Criminal Offence? Force Marriage, Harm and the Politics of Multiculturalism in the UK, 15 Brit. J. Pol. & Int'l Rel. 626 (2013).Google Scholar

23 According to § 121 of the Act:Google Scholar

(1) A person commits an offence in England and Wales if he or she— (a) uses violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter into the marriage, and (b) believes, or ought to reasonably believe, that the conduct may cause the other person to enter into the marriage without free and full consent.Google Scholar

(2) In relation to a victim who lacks capacity to consent to marriage, the offence under subsection (1) is capable of being committed by any conduct carried out for the purpose of causing the victim to enter into a marriage (whether or not the conduct amounts to violence, threats or any other form of coercion).Google Scholar

(3) A person commits an offence under the law of England and Wales if he or she— (a) practices any form of deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the United Kingdom, and (b) intends the other person to be subjected to conduct outside the United Kingdom that is an offence under subsection (1) or would be an offence under that subsection if the victim were in England and Wales.Google Scholar

The maximum penalty for forced marriage offenses is seven years.Google Scholar

24 Gill, & Engeland, Van, supra note 21, at 246.Google Scholar

25 Id. at 247.Google Scholar

26 For analysis on human rights relating to forced marriage and Germany's obligations under international human rights law, see Hanna Beate Schoepp-Schilling, Zwangsverheiratung als Menschenrechtsverletzung, Die Bedeutung der internationalen Rechtsinstrumente [Forced Marriage as a Human Rights Violation, the Meaning of International Law], 1 Zwangsverheiratung in Deutschland 201, 205–11 (Bundesministerium für Familie, Senioren, Frauen und Jugend eds., 2007); see also Letzgus, supra note 2, at 452.Google Scholar

27 G.A. Res. 217 (III) A, Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Dec. 10, 1948).Google Scholar

28 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, art. 23(3), Dec. 16, 1966, 999 UNTS 171 (entered into force for Germany Mar. 23, 1976); Gesetz zu dem Internationalen Pakt vom 19. Dezember 1966 über bürgerliche und politische Rechte, Nov. 15, 1973, BGBl. II at 1533.Google Scholar

29 International Covenant on Economic and Social Rights, art. 10(1), Dec. 16, 1966, 933 UNTS 3 (entered into force for Germany Jan. 3, 1976); Gesetz zu dem Internationalen Pakt vom 19. Dezember 1966 über wirtschaftliche, soziale und kulturelle Rechte, Nov. 23, 1973, BGBl. II at 1569.Google Scholar

30 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, art. 16(1)(b), Dec. 18, 1979, 1249 UNTS 13 (entered into force for Germany July 10, 1985); Gesetz zu dem Übereinkommen vom 18. Dezember 1979 zur Beseitigung jeder Form von Diskriminierung der Frau, Apr. 25, 1985, BGBl. II at 647.Google Scholar

31 Referred to as monism. On monism, see generally Weissbrodt, David & de la Vega, Connie, International Human Rights Law: An Introduction 343 (2007); see also Peter Malanczuk, Akehurst's Modern Introduction to International Law 63 (7th ed. 1997); Donald Rothwell et al., International Law: Cases and Materials with Australian Perspectives (2010).Google Scholar

32 In other Member States, however, international instruments have no direct impact on national legislation until legislation is adopted by the Member State that “transports” these obligations into national law; this is referred to as dualism.Google Scholar

33 Zartner, Dana, Courts, Codes, and Custom: Legal Tradition and State Policy Toward International Human Rights and Environmental Law 97–98 (2014) (classifying Germany as a monist state). Grundgesetz [GG] [Basic Law] art. 59(2) (stating that “treaties that regulate the political relations of the Federation or relate to subjects of federal legislation shall require the consent or participation, in the form of a federal law, of the bodies responsible in such a case for the enactment of federal law. In the case of executive agreements the provisions concerning the federal administration shall apply mutatis mutandis”).Google Scholar

34 See also Young, Katharine, The Implementation of International Law in the Domestic Laws of Germany and Australia: Federal and Parliamentary Comparison, 21 Adelaide L. Rev. 177, 184 (1999). For further explanations on the situation in Germany, see Josef Isensee, Handbuch des Staatsrechts der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 167 (3rd ed. 2007); see also Ernst Benda, Werner Maihofer, & Hans-Jochen Vogel, Handbuch des Verfassungsrechts der Bundesrepublik Deutschland: Studienausgabe 1466–67 (1995).Google Scholar

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37 Gesetzes zur Bekämpfung der Zwangsheirat und zum besseren Schutz der Opfer von Zwangsheirat sowie zur Änderung weiterer aufenthalts- und asylrechtlicher Vorschriften, June 30, 2011, BGBl. I at 1266–70. The explanatory memorandum to the legislation by the German government explicitly refers to human rights relating to forced marriage and concludes that more than preventative measures are required to protect victims, see Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksache [BT] 17/4401, at 8.Google Scholar

38 StGB § 240(4)(2); see also Schubert and Mobius, supra note 1 (referring to the rule as an aggravation (Regelbeispiel)).Google Scholar

39 StGB § 237.Google Scholar

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41 Valerius, , supra note 40, at 431.Google Scholar

42 StGB § 237(1).Google Scholar

43 StGB § 237(2).Google Scholar

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45 Bürgerliches Gesetzbuch [BGB] [Civil Code] § 1310.Google Scholar

46 Einfürhungsgesetzt zum Bürgerlichen Gesetzbuche [EGBGB] [Introductory Act to the German Civil Code], arts. 11, 13. See Bülte, Jens & Becker, Raymond, Der Begriff der Ehe [The Term Marriage], Zeitchrift für Internationale Strafrechtsdogmatik 61, 63 (2012).Google Scholar

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55 See Sonnen, , supra note 44, at para. 23; see also Wieck-Noodt, supra note 3, at para. 26 (contemplating whether forcing someone into a religious marriage could constitute an unsuccessful attempt of § 237).Google Scholar

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57 Wieck-Noodt, supra note 3, at para. 43.Google Scholar

58 IMMA, supra note 5, at 4.Google Scholar

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63 Id. at para. 47.Google Scholar

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90 Strafprozessordnung [StPO] [Code of Criminal Procedure] §§ 52, 55.Google Scholar

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94 Letzgus, , supra note 2, at 456.Google Scholar

95 No criminal court verdicts are recorded in the Juris database as of June 2015.Google Scholar

96 Haas, , supra note 51, at 76.Google Scholar

97 Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksachen [BT] 17/4401, at 1.Google Scholar

98 Id. at 9.Google Scholar

99 See Yerlikaya, & Çakir-Ceylan, supra note 66, at 213.Google Scholar

100 Valerius, , supra note 40, at 431.Google Scholar

101 Haas, , supra note 51, at 76.Google Scholar

102 Gill, & Engeland, Van, supra note 21, at 246; see Wieck-Noodt, supra note 3, at 4 (concurring that forced marriage in Germany is mostly based on tribal customs and patriarchal family structure).Google Scholar

103 Haas, , supra note 51, at 76.Google Scholar

104 See Letzgus, , supra note 2, at 453.Google Scholar

105 Schubert, & Moebius, , supra note 1, at 35.Google Scholar

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107 See Yerlikaya and Çakir-Ceylan, supra note 66, at 213.Google Scholar

108 Sonnen, , supra note 44, at para. 5.Google Scholar

109 Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksachen [BT] 16/1035, at 6.Google Scholar

110 Clark, & Richards, , supra note 20, at 503 (citing Mission d'information sur la famille et les droits des enfants for the argument that the practice is intolerable).Google Scholar

111 Deutscher Bundestag: Drucksachen [BT] 17/2491, request 7. The Green party requested a Parliamentary inquiry into the effectiveness on the criminal law of coercion governing forced marriage. This request was unsuccessful.Google Scholar

112 See Eisele, , supra note 8, at 3; Eisele & Majer, supra note 48, at 547; Haas, supra note 51, at 74–75.Google Scholar

113 See Valerius, , supra note 40, at 431.Google Scholar

114 See Shariff, Fauzia, Towards a Transformative Paradigm in the UK Response to Forced Marriage: Excavating Community Engagement and Subjectivising Agency, 21 Soc. & Legal Stud. 549, 549 (2012).Google Scholar

115 Response of the Federal Republic of Germany in preparation of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights' report Strengthening Efforts to Prevent and Eliminate Child, Early and Forced Marriage in Light of UN Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/24/23, http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/WRGS/ForcedMarriage/Germany.pdf (Dec. 13, 2013) (last visited Nov. 7, 2014).Google Scholar

116 The brochure can be downloaded on the German Federal Government website, http://www.bundesregierung.de/Content/DE/Publikation/IB/leitfaden-fuer-schulen-zum-umgang-mit-zwangsverheiratungen.pdf (last visited Nov. 6, 2014).Google Scholar

117 Response of the Federal Republic of Germany, supra note 115, at 2.Google Scholar

118 Schwarz, , supra note 12, at 2 (suggesting that a support service structure is missing particularly in rural areas in Germany).Google Scholar

119 IMMA, supra note 5, at 14.Google Scholar

120 See id. Google Scholar

121 See id. at 15.Google Scholar

122 See id. Google Scholar

123 More information on the work of the Forced Marriage Unit, available at www.gov.uk/forced-marriage (last accessed Nov. 6 2014). The Unit was first launched in 2000 under the title Community Liaison Unit. See Shariff, supra note 114, at 552.Google Scholar

124 Id. Google Scholar

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“I Don't Take This Man to Be My Lawfully Wedded Husband”: Considering the Criminal Offense of “Forced Marriage” and Its Potential Impact on the Lives of Girls and Young Women with Migrant Backgrounds in Germany
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“I Don't Take This Man to Be My Lawfully Wedded Husband”: Considering the Criminal Offense of “Forced Marriage” and Its Potential Impact on the Lives of Girls and Young Women with Migrant Backgrounds in Germany
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“I Don't Take This Man to Be My Lawfully Wedded Husband”: Considering the Criminal Offense of “Forced Marriage” and Its Potential Impact on the Lives of Girls and Young Women with Migrant Backgrounds in Germany
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