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Forced underage marriages rise in Switzerland

A three-year-old Afghani bride Keystone

The number of forced marriages involving minors has increased significantly in Switzerland, with a specialist Swiss website reporting 119 cases so far this year, compared with fewer than 60 for all of 2015.

According to (a website focused on forced marriages) of particular concern is that of the 119 cases, 26 were with girls under the age of 16, most of whom came from Iraq, Syria, Eritrea, Afghanistan and Somalia. This figure is five times the total number reported between 2005 and 2015.

One case involved a ten-year-old Somali girl at a Swiss school where a social worker discovered that the girl was married, Anu Sivaganesan, president of zwangsheirat.chExternal link, told the NZZ am Sonntag.

This is not just a consequence of more refugees, she said. Society – in particular specialists such as doctors, social workers and teachers – was becoming increasingly aware of the problem and the advice centre was gaining recognition among the public, she said.

In 2012, the Swiss parliament passed a series of measures, increasing jail sentences to a maximum of five years for people found guilty of coercing others into a marriage. This applies regardless of whether the marriage was agreed outside Switzerland.

In addition, Swiss registrars must refuse to officiate when they come across forced marriages and have to report suspected incidents to the justice authorities.

The minimum age for marriage in Switzerland is 18.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR