“Don't get on the plane!“ - Forced marriage during summer holidays [video]

Just do not get on the plane! What sounds like climate-friendly advice for the summer holidays can have a very different meaning for girls with foreign roots.

Many young girls are threatened with forced marriage in their parents' homeland, says Petra Koch-Knöbel, women's representative in Berlin's Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg district. Every year, after the holidays, some places in the classrooms remain empty.

Also the women's rights organization 'Terre des Femmes' speaker Myria Böhmecke knows about the risk summer vacation. Quite often, requests for help of frightened girls often increase in aid and counseling centers. "Forced marriages in Berlin are not isolated cases," emphasizes Böhmecke.

They also threatened girls and young women nationwide in the second and third migrant generation.

"Most girls have a clue what it's about. But many believe that they can say no on the spot or that it's all about an engagement," reports Böhmecke. "That's not true. As soon as they are there, their passport, return ticket and mobile phone are taken away. They are either imprisoned or under massive control."

Reliable figures for the extent of forced marriages do not exist, only approximations. In November 2018, the Berlin Arbeitskreis gegen Zwangsverheiratung (Working group against forced marriage) published the latest figures from a survey of around 1,000 aid centers and schools in the capital. The results were 570 cases in 2017 on forced marriage.

Most of those affected were girls between 16 and 21 years old with Arab and Turkish roots. However, families also came from Kurdish areas, from the Balkans, Bulgaria and Romania.

A forced marriage was carried out 117 times, according to the Berlin survey. It was planned 92 times, 113 times it was feared. "We assume that the number of unreported cases is much higher," says Koch-Knöbel.

Nationwide poll numbers are more than ten years old. In 2008, nearly 3,500 consultations were recorded for a study by the Federal Ministry of Family Affairs. Of these, 1771 took place before a forced marriage, 937 after and 235 both before and after.

Again, this approach is not considered representative. 'Terre des Femmes' considers a new study to be urgently needed and estimates that the numbers are higher today.

Even with German citizenship, it would be difficult to return after a forced marriage, reports Speaker Böhmecke. "Therefore, we strongly advise against boarding an airplane. Even if it is only a suspicion that a forced marriage is planned."

Because without money, the girls would not be able to come to the German embassy abroad. And the police usually return them immediately to their families.

It is often not easy to say no, emphasizes Böhmecke. "Girls are sometimes lured into their parents' country of origin under false promises. They are told, for example, that they only go on vacation. Or else there is social pressure: The grandfather is very ill and they want to visit him for the last time.

Women's Representative Petra Koch-Knöbel offers further education courses for teachers and school social workers in Berlin, especially before the summer holidays. The interest in it has been rather restrained, she regrets. "We would like to be more problematic."

School and youth welfare office, however, have little opportunity to intervene, says Myria Böhmecke. Especially if no violent situation was apparent before, the parents had custody and there was no evidence of a forced marriage.

Motives of the parents are often honorary terms from their country of origin. Such traditions are often recorded, perhaps especially when a family does not really feel at home in Germany.

The refusal to board a plane causes an even bigger problem for young girls. Where?

Although there are emergency services and auxiliary facilities in Berlin and other cities. "The girls are often very afraid to be found. It is also difficult to hide permanently for the entire family, says Böhmecke.

"They do not come per se in the witness protection program." In addition, the girls did not want to leave the family, but hoped to the end, that there is an agreement and they do not have to marry the man.

"But that is mostly a mistake."

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