Child brides pose new challenge in ongoing refugee crisis

The case of a pregnant 14-year-old refugee girl from Syria, who also already had an 18-month-old child when she arrived in Norway with her husband this autumn, has posed a major dilemma for Norwegian authorities. Police have now decided to investigate, and may file charges against the 23-year-old father.

Under Norwegian law, the girl is a victim of sexual abuse and alleged forced marriage, and her husband may be guilty of having sex with a child. The offenses clearly occurred, however, outside Norway, which initially prompted Norwegian police to refrain from filing any charges when the young family first crossed the border from Russia in Northern Norway.

Public outcry when the case of the child bride became known, along with clear signals from government officials and many top politicians, prompted police to reconsider. “We will follow this up as a criminal case,” prosecutor Jens Herstad of the Øst-Finnmark Police District told state broadcaster NRK. Herstad said other state agencies will also be mobilized to assist the 14-year-old, who is now staying at an asylum center in southern Norway along with her child and husband.

While the police were roundly criticized for not acting immediately, Norwegian social anthropologist Unni Wikan warned that more such cases are likely to arise and present more dilemmas over how to handle asylum seekers who are child brides.

“Norway may have to accept that underage refugees are married and have children,” Wikan told NRK. Wikan doesn’t defend how young girls can be married off to older men, but expressed concern that the girls may suffer even more if authorities file charges and annul the marriages. Countries all over Europe may face similar problems.

newsinenglish.no staff

  • arumat

    It’s a little late to be considering the vast cultural differences, isn’t it? To open your borders to refugees then arrest them when they don’t conform to your Western standards? No one thought of this before?

    • Moomin

      The ‘open-border-let-anyone-in-policy’ clearly was a mistake from the start, but these are legitimate refugees. And we cannot expect them to know all the laws of a country when they make the choice where to go. Since it’s not an option to allow law violations for cultural reasons I think the most reasonable is to inform those people of this nation’s laws (no 14yo brides) and allow them to reselect a country that would fit them better, e.g. Saudi Arabia.

      • Chris Bowen

        The problem is they did not seem to violate any laws. They were married in another country where it was legal, and assuming the conception of the child was in that country then that was legal as well. Saying well you were not in our jurisdiction when you performed these acts, but now you are being tried as though you were sets very dangerous precedents.

        • It very well may be illegal for them to continue marriage now in Norway and they may be legally prevented from sleeping with each other any more since it’s not legal for a 14 year old in Norway to consent to sex with a 23 year old.
          I agree the guy shouldn’t be thrown in jail for doing something that is both legal and common in his society, since the age-of-consent being set at 16, 17, or 18 is not a moral, physical, or mental thing. It’s an arbitrary Western thing.

          • ohokyeah

            It seems reasonable that any sexual contact which occurred after arrival in Europe/America where such contact is illegal is perfectly justifiable to prosecute.

            It may be perfectly legal in his home country to have sex with a child-bride, but it’s not in Norway (or elsewhere in Europe and North America). If he continued to have sex with his child-bride, he is clearly going to be subject to the same laws as any other person living in Norway would and should be.

            Simply being a refugee does not give him an exclusion to laws prohibiting sex with minors in the country he now lives in. He chose to go to Norway, and if he could not accept the rules in the culture he emigrated to, he and other refugees probably should have found another region more tolerant of his cultural norms rather than expect that he should get special treatment for their marriage norms.

            It appears that there is little in the way of a minimum age for those in developing nations. So long as a girl has reached menarche, she’s deemed “fit” for marriage. Some girls reach puberty at age eight, the average in the western world is about twelve… and there’s no way that an eight to twelve year old is really actually ready to be a wife. Lambaste the lack of a uniform standard of acceptable marriage ages as much as you like, at least in western countries it’s considered if a child is psychologically capable of such a commitment. It’s not completely about being physically capable of birthing children. A typical eight to ten year old in western countries is likely still playing with dolls, I’d be surprised if ten to twelve year old girls in Yemen, Syria and other middle eastern countries were not still playing like children, because they ARE still children, even if their parents arranged marriage for them because they’d reached menarche. You lambasted the arbitrary nature of western standards, but simply reaching puberty is just as arbitrary.

            Under western norms, children, regardless of sex are typically in some form of school until between ages sixteen and eighteen. In developing nations she is fortunate if she’s been able to go to school for any amount of time before being married off. Little value on education is placed in many developing nations, and there are indications that such prioritization would do much to assist the development of the economies in which child-brides are common. More educated women can contribute more meaningfully to their economies and are also less economically disadvantaged when compared to men. They are much more prone to essentially becoming powerless when they marry too young with little to no education.

            This is why it’s a moral issue everywhere, because young women can and frequently are trapped by poor financial situations because they were married off too young and prohibited from formal education.

            http://www.unicef.org/media/files/Child_Marriage_Report_7_17_LR..pdf
            http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/341/education.html

            Pre-teens and teenagers may be technically capable of bearing children but there are increased risks to both mothers and babies when the mother is a teenager. They are not done growing up physically for several more years let alone psychologically. They are literally still not at their full adult height when they start menstruating, nor is their physical development complete. Human brain development actually doesn’t finish until people reach their mid-twenties. Simply being able to have children does not mean that they should be encouraged [or forced] to do so.

            Why should western nations have to recognize another country’s marriages? To turn what you’re suggesting on its head, should same-sex unions be required to be recognized in African and Middle Eastern countries which do not recognize same-sex marriage? Why should Norway be obligated to recognize a marriage which is not legal in their country due to one party being considered incapable of legal sexual consent and to contracts? Countries have the right to recognize whatever marriage systems they wish, they’re not obligated to recognize the legality of unions entered in other countries which are not legal in their country.

          • Chris Bowen

            Annaling marriages that are legal where they were performed, but illegal where they are now at is also a dangerous precedent. I agree with the sex situation being illegal now, as they need to obey the laws in place where they are at, and if they can prove that they are still sleeping with the girls then they should be prosecuted.

      • Dansolo

        Laws are not inherently valid just because a group of people agreed on them. Children are not capable of making the decision to marry. And those children who do marry are done so by being given or sold by their parents as property. No human being is property – that is a fact. To treat someone otherwise is to commit a crime, whether your laws recognize that crime or not.

        Your response is awful and you should feel bad.

        • When do people stop being children?
          .
          It used to be when they became old enough to have children of their own. Now in most cultures it is different. Some states let you marry at 16 years old. It used to be even younger. But why is 16 better than 15. Or should we make it 18? Or 21? What informs your moral belief that says a person of 14 is incapable of decideing to get married? What changes between 14 and 16 that makes 16 acceptable?

          • susannunes

            You are seriously disturbed if you can’t figure it out that extremely young marriages are wrong and are violations of women’s rights.

  • Hard Little Machine

    Sharia must be respected. Norway has already chosen that path. Case closed. The only remedy is to change Norwegian law to accommodate it.

  • Costas Swampie

    Oh wait, Sharia Law comes to the West; weren’t we promised by liberals, do-gooders, and know nothings that this would never happen? Sorry to say, told you so, ain’t going to cut it any longer…

    Thanks Obama…

    PS: How did the Refugees get to No. Russia; in order to cross the border into Norway? Why didn’t Russia do some thing about these illegal people moving across their territory? PSS: How did they get into Russia in the first place? Thru Turkey? Georgia? Armenia or Azerbaijan? Smells fishy to me…

    • Eva Destruction

      Are you drunk? How is what is going on in Norway Obama’s fault? Never mind, I forgot everything is his fault. I heard liberals are all for breathing too. You may want to hold your breath for at least 24 hours so you can be sure you are stigginit to the libs. That’ll teach ’em.

  • Fred Strychnewicz

    Dear Norway,

    This marriage occurred prior to the refugees coming to your country. YOU accepted them therefore you must honor their marriage contract as disgusting and abhorrent as it may be.

    If you can not handle this maybe you and the rest of Europe should not have accepted refugees in the first place huh?

  • Dansolo

    “Western Standards” does not change the fact that A) women are not property and B) children are not old enough to make the decision to marry and C) it is very dangerous for a child to get pregnant. This is not a mere cultural difference. These are truly crimes that simply happen to be common in certain, backwards parts of the world. If they took in refugees that were violent, they would not accept violence. If they took in some refugees from some tribe of cannibals in Africa, they would not accept cannibalism. Crimes should never be accepted. I am absolutely disgusted by several replies here.

    • Even here in the west at 99% of the weddings I go to the pastor clearly states, “The husband is the head of the household, just as Christ is the head of the church”. Wives are also told they cannot get divorced or they will burn in everlasting hellfire. So call it what you will. In a large number of devote Christian families in the west the women are the defacto property of the men.
      .
      So if the woman was 16 (an age she can be legally married in many US states) she is old enough, but 14 is not enough? What is the basis for that claim? In most cultures until recent times once a woman was old enough to have children that was considered the time she should start looking to be married off. What makes your arbitrary age limit any more moral than some other one?

      • susannunes

        Not the same thing at all. Child marriages are rare in Christian homes. This is nothing short of child abuse and human rights abuse that is going on in backward countries and cultures. It should not be tolerated–ever.

      • Michael F Poulin

        The part you conveniently left out : just as Christ sacrificed Himself for the Church, husbands are to sacrifice themselves for their wives. Nowhere in the New Testament are women considered property…that’s just your anti-Christian bias shining through

      • FranklinWasRight

        The Commander in Chief is the “head” of the army. That doesn’t make the soldiers his property.

        Pedophilia is accepted in Islam. It is not accepted in Christianity. The two views can not coexist, one must win. In the West, it is illegal to have sex with children.

        I see you are of the same mind as NAMBLA.

  • gnomemaker

    1 – Given the social/political situation in their home countries, it was probably safer for 12 and 13 year olds to be married than to be considered fair game by militants.

    2 – The Muslim wedding ceremony includes asking the bride if she is acting on her own free will (though in these cases I would bet it is just a false formality).

    3 – Separating them from their husbands at the outset isn’t going to help. After a few years of living in a different culture they might have the confidence and skills to live independently, but not when they first arrive.

    4 – Arresting men with underage wives will only discourage those families from seeking asylum. The women are in more danger than the men.

    5 – Cultural differences aside, an adolescent female may be able to conceive, but pregnancy and birth are extraordinarily risky, and the girl probably won’t have enough body fat to support optimal brain development.

    I would offer contraceptive implants, and education, and ask the women/girls on a regular basis if they are being abused, and if they want to leave their husbands. Age is less of an issue than consent.

  • Lee Harris

    She was 14 and she already had an 18 month old child. Therefore she was no older than 12 and quite possibly 11 or younger when they were “married”.

    • AugustineThomas

      But Christians (who built modernity) are the major threat to your well-being.. Just ask one of our thought masters from the university of your choice!

  • Chris Bowen

    If in your country it is legal to sell drugs and you them move another country where it is not legal you would be able to keep your wealth gained because you were not breaking any laws. All laws have specific jurisdiction. For example if you were to sell drugs in a country where selling drugs were legal, but lived in the US, there would be nothing authorities could, or would do to you, because you are breaking no laws…

    So you are saying that your country is not a place of democracy and a place where differences of opinions is tolerated?

  • Michael F Poulin

    Since in your world view there is no God, its just “survival of the fittest”. The weak must be dominated by the stron. Men are strong- girls are weak…too bad that’s just Nature taking its course. You have no right therefore to call child marriage “disgusting” because without the Absolute truth of a God, there can be no right and no wrong. “Disgusting” is simply a thought formed randomly from the aggregation of nerve cells going off in your chemical brain for no purpose whatsoever. So if in the Muslim’s brain it is not disgusting, who are you to force your intolerant views on the rest of us?

  • FranklinWasRight

    Muhammad himself married a 9 year old. They must justify it, since it was practices by their prophet.

  • AugustineThomas

    Christianity is the reason you’re not living as a pagan heathen in a society at least as brutal as the worst of the Muslim world.
    Christians developed humanism, secularism and modern democracy on top of abolishing slavery and giving women the vote. Christ and what he inspired in the world is the very reason we even have a well-developed concept of why it’s wrong to abuse women just because they’re smaller physically.
    So yea, don’t be such an ignorant ingrate. Otherwise, move to North Korea. You won’t be bothered by any Christians there..

    • Dansolo

      Two words for you: The Crusades.

  • Anton Medak

    This from a country that takes children from their parents!