Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Price is Right

“It is a scandal that the bartering of a girl can go unnoticed in the middle of Germany.”

Here’s the latest news from modern multicultural Germany. The article below is from Friday’s Der Spiegel, and was kindly translated for Gates of Vienna by JLH:

Bride-Price in Berlin

April 23, 2010

Interview by Anna Reiman

Without a Doubt, This Is Trade In Human Beings

Parents of Kurdish origin are said to have sold their 15-year-old daughter to the family of her future husband for €15,500. An active practice right in the middle of Germany, explains women’s rights expert Myria Böhmeke in a Spiegel-Online interview.

Spiegel: Mrs. Böhmeke, it is said that in Berlin, after the conclusion of the marriage contract, Kurdish parents sold their daughter, Jasmin, to the husband’s family for €15,500. Since then, the 15-year-old, who is pregnant, has separated from her husband. He is said to have beaten her. Is it an exception for Muslim families in Germany to pay a bride price?
Böhmeke: No, in my experience it is not unusual. Exact figures are difficult to develop, because the girls who are forced into marriage and register with “terre des femmes” often do not know whether money was paid or not. The groom’s family pays the money for, among other things, the loss of a worker in the family.
Spiegel: Can the bride price be of any use to the woman, if, for instance, she leaves her husband?
Böhmeke: Originally, the bride price was thought of as a security for the woman, in case of a separation. The women often bought jewelry with it. Since then, it has frequently benefited the family.
Spiegel: Berlin SPD politician, Bilkay Öney, claims to be shocked by Jasmin’s case. She says: “Buying a bride is taboo in Europe. I don’t care to think about anything like that. That doesn’t even exist in Turkey.” Is this a realistic judgment?
Böhmeke: Completely false. Forced marriages are still widespread in Turkey. And frequently money changes hands. Underage girls are often married, even though it is forbidden in Turkey as in Germany. In such cases, the marriage contract is executed in a religious framework. As soon as the girl is of age, the “official” marriage takes place. And payment does not just take place in the Islamic societies. There is also often a substantial money payment in India.
Spiegel: Jasmin’s family seems to be well integrated. Her father is with the fire department and her brother is a policeman. That seems to make the case so much more incomprehensible.
Böhmeke: No. There is not necessarily a connection between current indicators of integration and consciousness of women’s rights. It often happens that girls who call “terre des femmes” for help appear to be models of integration, speak perfect German, and go to school.
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Spiegel: Can anything legal be done against bride-price? The families could claim that the poorer family was being supported so that the marriage could take place.
Böhmeke: The case of the 15-year-old in Berlin is against the law, because it has to do with an underage girl. On top of that, according to reports from Bild and BZ, the man’s family publicly declared that they had bought the girl. This is a clear case of trading in human beings.
Spiegel: It is said that a notary certified that sole custody goes to the husband’s family. Does that have standing before the court?
Böhmeke: No. When custody is changed, the Child Protective Services and Family Court must be involved. That would be a completely different situation.
Spiegel: Jasmin says she married voluntarily because she was in love. Does that alter things in your view?
Böhmeke: Not really. It is forbidden for underage girls to marry in Germany for very sensible reasons: precisely because they cannot judge the consequences of the decision. Jasmin’s case shows that clearly. Her husband allegedly beat her. After a short time, she left him.
Spiegel: What kind of results are you looking for?
Böhmeke: More information in the schools. Instruction for teachers and for staff of Child Protective Services. Many things went wrong in Jasmin’s case. According to reports, the girls was no longer going to school regularly. Such things cannot be allowed to happen. Reviews must take place. It is a scandal that the bartering of a girl can go unnoticed in the middle of Germany.
Spiegel: How many cases of forced marriage have you recorded in the past year?
Böhmeke: Over 500 women who were threatened with forced marriage or violence as a matter of “honor” have registered with “terre des femmes” in the past year. A third of them were threatened with death.
Spiegel: What happens to women who are smuggled to other countries like Turkey to conclude the marriage contract?
Böhmeke: In most cases, they are lost to us, at least if they are not German citizens. Cell phone and passport are usually taken from them. The Turkish authorities have little interest in interfering in forced marriages, least of all in rural areas.