How many girls go missing this summer?
Many girls in Sweden worry about the summer holidays. The family has planned to travel to the home country and the girls worry that something will happen, in the worst case that they will be forced to marry and be held abroad.
A large number of girls and boys live in a context of honor in Sweden and know that they will not get to choose who they will marry. Living in a context of honor means that there are expectations and demands that the interests of the family or relatives are put before one's own. Choosing a partner, for example, is often not an individual's own choice, but a matter for the family or a larger collective.
Every year, children and young people are taken out of the country against their will. SVT recently reported that at least 916 children have been abducted in the past five years in connection with trips to the home country (SVT's 2023 mapping of child abductions handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
The purpose of an abduction can vary, but the most common is child or forced marriage in the case of girls, but also so-called educational trips. Sometimes the trips take place in order to escape the efforts of social services, but more and more also take place in connection with a custody dispute. Several abductions could be prevented if the authorities intervened earlier and acted more quickly. This is shown in the interview study conducted by the Equality Authority with professionals about children and young people who have been exposed to honor oppression or other violence and oppression abroad (Abducted Children and Young People 2022:25).
More should be able to be done to prevent abductions, and it is crucial that municipalities in particular have good procedures, resources and competence.
But also others who meet children and young people can act and put a stop to it. As an adult, it is incredibly important to act if you feel concerned about someone young in your vicinity, because if an authority becomes aware of a risk of abduction for marriage, the child can be protected by an exit ban.
Zonta International works to prevent child and forced marriage primarily by funding projects in collaboration with the UN, but also through local influence and collaboration with other organizations. Being able to decide for yourself who you want to live with should be a matter of course for everyone. If we are to stop the occurrence of child and forced marriage, we must help each other. We zonta members ask one more question and demand of our municipalities if they have preparedness in these areas? We must of course act if we suspect that someone has been exposed or is at risk of being exposed. Everything to be clear in our work for women's and children's human rights.
chairman of the Committee for impact and supporting initiatives 2022-2024
Zonta International District 21