Penalties for Forced Marriage Berlin Passes New Integration Measures

Those who force women and girls into marriage can now face up to five years in German prison, under a new integration measure passed by the German parliament on Thursday.
A young Muslim woman in Frankfurt. Forced marriage will now be a punishable offense in Germany.

A young Muslim woman in Frankfurt. Forced marriage will now be a punishable offense in Germany.

Foto: Wolfram Steinberg/ dpa

The German parliament approved a law on Thursday which calls for up to five years in prison for anyone forcing a girl or woman into marriage. The new law would also give non-German citizens who are forced by their husbands or families to leave the country after their marriage a legal right to return to Germany.

The parliament in Berlin also addressed several other issues related to the integration of foreigners in the society. In a move to prevent marriages of convenience, foreigners wedded to German citizens will now have to be married three years before a divorce in order to get their own independent residence permit. Prior law required them to be married two years.

Foreigners may now only get an unlimited residence permit when they have successfully completed an integration course, which includes language instruction and a proficiency exam. And young foreigners, between the ages of 15 and 21, who have lived in the country and attended school for six years, and who fall into the category of immigrants who are "tolerated" by the government until it reviews their status, will soon have the right to their own independent residence permit, provided that they are "well-integrated."

The new interior minister, Hans-Peter Friedrich -- a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative coalition -- who took over during a reshuffling of the cabinet following the resignation of Defense Minister Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, said that German society is not prepared to accept forced marriages, and called on foreigners to take more responsibility for their own integration. "Those who live here must speak German," he said.

Shortly after taking office, Friedrich made headlines when he said: "That Islam is part of Germany is a fact that cannot be proved by history." The statement contradicted German President Christian Wulff, who said on the anniversary of German unification in October that "Islam is a part of Germany."

mbw -- with wire reports
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