The following article, as translated by JLH, concerns a recent decision by the Swiss legislature to tighten the laws to make forced marriages and marriages to minors more difficult. No particular group or religion is specified in the legislation, but it’s not hard to guess who the lawmakers had in mind.
The translator includes this introductory note:
This article may offer some explanation of what makes Switzerland different from the rest of Europe. Here, their executive body tends toward a lighter punishment, but the legislature — by its nature closer to the people — insists on making it harsher. The smallness of both land and population also makes the use of a referendum a potent “populist” weapon.
Imagine trying to get this kind of result in Washington DC.
Here’s his translation from Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SF, Swiss TV):
Every Case of Forced Marriage Will Be Punished in the Future
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Forced marriage is to be illegal in Switzerland in the future — no matter where it was entered into. It will be punished with a maximum of five years in jail. With this ruling, the Federal Council’s report is following objections from its consultation with the legislature.
In combating forced marriages, the government had intended to let it go at three years at most. That has been the maximum penalty in previous cases of coercion. But in the consultation, it was insisted that this offense be treated separately.
The Federal Council will no longer tolerate marriages to minors, as it firmly maintains in an alteration of the legislation on international private law. Henceforth, all requirements for marriage in Switzerland will be exclusively judged by Swiss law.
Marriages to minors — including among foreigners — are no longer acceptable. Marriages to minors performed outside the country are likewise impermissible. In Switzerland, the minimum age for marriage is 18.
Disclosure obligation for registry offices
From now on, registry offices will be obliged to play a greater role. It is already true that they must immediately refuse to officiate, when they detect compulsion in a marriage. What is new is that they must enter a criminal complaint.
The official criteria that invalidate a marriage are therefore expanded by two points: minority age and compulsion. In which case, the authorities must inform the cantons of suspicious incidents.
In the law concerning foreigners and asylum, the Federal Council provides that — in case of suspicion of minority or of compulsion — the authorities dealing with foreigners shall report to the authorities responsible for validation of marriages. Further, the procedure for tracing the husband is delayed until a valid decision in a legal verdict.
Aside from these accommodations to the law, the Federal Council intends a second step to strengthen prevention of and defense against forced marriages. First, it clarifies forms, extent, origins and distribution of forced marriages. In the process, methods of combating it are demonstrated. Following on that is a program for the protection and support of the affected parties.