Hundreds of young Dutch people at risk of forced marriage during summer holiday

Hundreds of young Dutch people are at risk of forced marriage and abandonment abroad during the summer period because they often miss signs of danger. They are blind to these issues, often out of loyalty to their family, so that a seemingly innocent family visit abroad can end in a “one-way trip,” claimed the LKHA, a Dutch information center specialized in research and policy regarding forced marriage and abandonment.

Victims realize only afterwards that there were signs, such as a sudden departure or a lack of control over their passport, visa or tickets. “For example, victims are kept out of certain conversations, or no return ticket has been booked for the victim,” the LKHA said.

If in doubt, potential victims should immediately seek help when in danger, for example from the police or from domestic violence center Veilig Thuis, the latter being the base for the LKHA. A campaign was launched this week to make possible victims aware of the risks. For example, an animated video will be shown in the waiting rooms at general physician offices, and posters will be placed in secondary schools. These carry a slogan, “Retour / Enkele reis,” which translates as, “Round-trip / One-way,” in English.

“Forced marriage” refers to young people who are put in a position where they have to marry a partner against their will who has been chosen by their parents or other relatives. This can often happen abroad, and can lead to the young person being left behind in another country when their parents think that their child has become too Westernized. “Such an abandonment means a sharp break in their lives. Young people lose contact with parents, brothers or sisters, friends, school and everything they have built up in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, this still happens to many young Dutch people. Every year.”

LKHA is a point of contact for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and for victims abroad who need help. The organization can also provide victims with support when they return to the Netherlands. There are no precise figures about how often forced marriages occur. According to research by the Verwey-Jonker Institute, there were at least 181 cases of forced marriages in 2011 and 2012. The actual numbers are probably much higher. The problem seems to affect women far more frequently, according to the study.

Forced marriage is a criminal offense in the Netherlands and carries a prison sentence of up to two years. If a Dutch person has forced someone abroad to get married, they can be prosecuted in the Netherlands.

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