Minister Opstelten takes action against forced marriages

A period of six years from the date of the crime still applies, but in future the limitation period will start when the victim has reached the age of 18. This widens the options of reporting abuse and prosecuting suspects.

This is evident from a legislative proposal the Minister sent to various bodies today for their opinion, such as the Public Prosecution Service and the Council for the Judiciary. In the Netherlands forced marriages are punishable and are considered a form of violence against women that must be tackled forcefully.

The extension of the limitation period is part of a set of criminal measures against forced marriages and is in line with the coalition agreement, which provides that the policy of combating forced marriages must be tightened and enforcement must be intensified.

A wider limitation term gives victims of forced marriage the possibility of reporting their abuse in due time. As an adult, they will have more time to think about the forced marriage and to become aware of the possibility of reporting. In many cases, children only fully realise the extent of their abuse at a later age. For sexual offences and female genital mutilation the limitation period already starts at the age of eighteen.

Forced marriage usually occurs in the seclusion of the family circle and is sometimes committed in the country of origin. Victims are in an isolated position and do not dare or do not want to report their abuse, out of shame, loyalty to the family or for fear for physical violence. Sometimes it concerns children who are retained in the country of origin during a holiday and are forced to enter into a marriage there. Forced marriages have far-reaching consequences, which is why additional protection is required.

In future, both Dutch nationals and foreign nationals with permanent residence in the Netherlands can be prosecuted, if they are guilty of forced marriage abroad. It will also become possible to prosecute persons in the Netherlands who have forced a Dutch national or foreign national to enter into marriage abroad. The Minister will implement these measures by extending the so-called extraterritorial jurisdiction. At this time, the possibilities of prosecuting persons who are guilty of forced marriage abroad are limited.

In addition, the jurisdiction for polygamy, which is prohibited in the Netherlands, will be widened. Foreign nationals with permanent residence in the Netherlands who enter into a polygamous marriage abroad can be prosecuted.

In addition, the maximum term of imprisonment for forced marriage will be raised from nine months to two years and in future the court may impose pre-trial detention, for instance to prevent a case from escalating or to guarantee the safety of the victim. Forced marriage is often linked to honour-related violence. The Public Prosecution Service will also have the possibility of exercising additional investigative powers, for instance to retrieve traffic data (telephone or Internet traffic). This may help to solve the crime.

Combating forced marriages will also be given a higher priority in the prosecution policy of the Public Prosecution Service.