A Swedish leaflet about child marriage has been withdrawn after it sparked outrage. The document outlines the illegality of underage marriage in Sweden, but many assumed it was condoning it instead.
The brochure was produced by Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare (Socialstyrelsen) and aimed at people arriving in the country. Entitled, ‘Information for those married to a child,’ the document explains that child marriage is illegal in Sweden and the reasons why. It goes on to say that any child who arrives with a spouse will be treated as a lone child and placed in social care.
The brochure also points out that sex with anyone under the age of 15 is also illegal in Sweden. However, Swedish politicians and residents took issue with the language used in the brochure, saying it wasn’t strong enough for the subject matter.
Jan Björklund, the leader of the Liberal Party, tweeted that the brochure should be “withdrawn without delay.”
"The biggest failing is that the word ‘prison’ isn’t present, but rather it gives a bit of advice and tips on how to respond if you have a relationship our marriage laws forbid," Tobias Billstrom, the leader of the Moderate Party, said, as cited by the Local.
“The material has provoked strong reactions and many comments. We have withdrawn the material and will revise it," Petra Rinman of Socialstyrelsen said in a statement, which explained the brochure was compiled as part of a government framework to disseminate information to children who are declared married, as well as spouses and family members.
Many expressed their anger over the leaflet on social media, where many appeared to think the brochure was encouraging child marriage or that it was a sign that Sweden was legalizing child marriage.
"Sweden does not allow anyone under the age of 18 to enter into marriage in the country,” Socialstyrelsen’s legal head Pär Ödman said. “However, according to current legislation, the general rule is that marriage which is legal according to the law of the country in which it was carried out should be recognized in Sweden. New legislation is currently being prepared by the government."
The new legislation will state that foreign childhood marriage will not be recognized if one of the parties was underage when they arrived in Sweden. It will come into effect at the start of 2019.
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